Critical Whiteness

Seminararbeit Stefanie Brauer a0607959

book analysis

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I. The Book
II. The Author
III. Terms and Definitions
IV. The Author??™s Motivation
V. Core Thesis
VI. Chapters under review
VII. summary
VIII. feedback
IX. enlargement upon aspects from the text
and critical discussion
X. conclusion
XI. bibliography

I. The book

Title: The social Construction of whiteness- white woman race matters
published by the University of Minnesota Press
seventh printing 1999

The book won the Jessie Bernard Book Award of the American Sociological Association in 1995 and praised to be an outstanding book by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights and by numerous editors.
The American Sociological Association Council established the Jessie Bernard Award in 1976 to recognize “work that has enlarged the horizons of the discipline of sociology to encompass fully the role of women in society.” (

II. The author (Ruth Frankenberg)

R.F. was born in 1957 in Cardiff, Wales, but grew up in Manchester, England. She moved to the United States at the age of twenty-two and began studying at the University of California at Santa Cruz where she accomplished a Ph.D. in the interdisciplinary history of consciousness department in 1988; in addition, she held an undergraduate degree in social and political sciences from the University of Cambridge, UK. Ruth dedicated her work on exploring the interconnectedness of feminism, race and cultural studies. In fact, she tried to maintain a critical perspective towards racial domination and multicultural curriculum development. ???The Social Construction of Whiteness: White Woman, Race Matters??? became the first book published under her name in 1993. Several essays called ???Displacing Whiteness??? in 1997 under her editorship were there to follow. In particular, they can be seen as trailblazers to a new field of study: Whiteness studies. Until 2004 Frankenberg focused on stories of Americans who integrated spiritual experiences with commitments to progressive ethical, personal and political change and based on these, she published another book: ???Living Spirit, Living Practice: Poetics, Politics, Epistemology???. Her final writing (???Cracks in the Facade: Whiteness and the Construction of 9/11???) emphasized her critical considerations on the reverberations of the 9/11 terror attacks within the American society. That is, in how far the attacks affected America??™s notion about power relationships and in which way they changed the prevalent belief of rationality, which she called ???whiteness???, in both political wings, the right and the left. Besides her dedication as a researcher, Frankenberg taught as an assistant professor of American studies at the University in California at Davis. Ruth??™s legacy remains alive in her books and in the stimuli she set as a feminist, antiracist, and antifascist activist. R.F. died of lung cancer at the age of forty-nine. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P. 291)

III. Terms and definitions

???[??¦] is as much as anything else an economic and political category maintained over time by a changing set of exclusionary practices, both legislative and customary.???
(c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.12) The term ???white??? in this book mainly refers to white skinned
individuals with a Western-European or United States decent.

As R.F. put it: ???First whiteness is a location of structural advantages, of race privilege. Second, it is a ???standpoint,??? a place from which white people look at ourselves, at others, and at society. Third, ???whiteness??? refers to a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.1) To sum up, ???whiteness??? in this book relates to everything that revolves around the construction of white individuals and their culture.
???[??¦] ???whiteness??? signals the production and reproduction of dominance rather than subordination, normativity rather than marginality, and privilege rather than disadvantage.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.237)

???[…] is above all a marker of difference, an axis of differentiation.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.138) The term ???race??? was in this book also used to refer to ???The discourse that views race as a marker of ontological, essential, or biological difference ??“ a discourse that dominated white thinking on race for much of U.S. history and that I refer to here as essentialist racism ??“ […]??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.138)
Refers to the conscious or unconscious construction of racial difference that takes place within society. (Frankenberg 1993: P.71)

refers to the unconscious influence enacted by ???a system of differentiation??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.1) which shapes anybody??™s knowledge on race or gender. ???[??¦] any system of differentiation shapes those on whom it bestows privilege as well as those it oppresses.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.1)

???essentialist racism???
???The discourse that views race as a marker of ontological, essential, or biological difference??”a discourse that dominated white thinking on race for much of U.S. history??¦??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.138); It refers to the first of three paradigms mentioned by Frankenberg in order to name the stages in which discourses about race were launched within U.S. society. She dated its roots back 500 years ago, but left open where and why it occurred. ???[??¦] the articulation and deployment of essentialist racism approximately five hundred years ago marks the moment when, so to speak, race was made into a difference and simultaneously into a rationale for racial inequality.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.139) It is therefore the oldest and very first column on which the construct of racism was build and as a corollary all following paradigms or discourses are shaped by.

Refers to the second paradigm. ???This second moment asserts that we are all the same under
the skin; that, culturally, we are converging; that, materially, we have the same chances in U.S, society; and that??”the sting in the tail??”any failure to achieve is therefore the fault of people of colour themselves.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.14) In short, it is a prevalent and, for many people with a certain avail in society, convenient repertoire to overlook inequalities within society in order to justify their privilege. ???[…] one key element of colour and power evasion is the production of a white self innocent of racism.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.188)

The last paradigm relates to the inversion of the first paradigm. That is, people of colour became aware about the insufficiency of the discourse held about ???colour-evasion; power-evasion???, which was predominantly coined or launched by the white culture (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.14), and therefore began to emancipate and start their own. ???Where difference within the terms of essentialist racism alleges the inferiority of people of colour, in the third moment difference signals autonomy of culture, values, aesthetic standards, and so on. An, of course, inequality in this third moment refers not to ascribed characteristics, but to the social structure.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.14-15)

IV. The Author??™s Motivation

Frankenberg gathered her inspiration for the book in the strong accusations expressed in the 1980??™s by an emerging class of coloured feminist woman towards their white counterparts. In fact, the work of white feminists was denounced to be blinkered and racist. Frankenberg found herself deeply shocked, as she had always thought of herself and of her colleagues to work continuously critical, ethically correct and tolerant. Accordingly, she had been overwhelmingly distracted by the ???mess??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.2) of responses made by white feminists at that time mainly due to an unawareness of their ???racialness???. Therefore, it then became her goal to examine and solve the subtle problems of those misunderstandings. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.2-5) What is more, she intended to establish a tool for whiteness studies and a guideline for change in the perception of whiteness in order to change the distribution of power. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.240- 243)

V. Core Thesis

???Racism shapes white women??™s lives.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.1)

???[…] white women??™s lives are affected by racism, but frequently in ways that simultaneously conceal or normalize race privilege from the standpoint of its beneficiaries.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.161)

VI. Chapters under review

1) Introduction: Points of Origin, Point of Departure

In this chapter the author foreshadowed her intention: Exploring the inexperienced terrain of the construction of ???whiteness??? within U.S. society and therefore building awareness for white women??™s ???racialness???. Additionally, she stated the framework under which her study took place and the circumstances which inspired her to initiate this empirical analysis. However, in the end of the chapter she foregrounded that her work must not be understood as a fully comprehensive study of ???whiteness???. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P. 18)

2) White on White: The Interviewees and the Method

The Interviewees: During 1984 and 1986 Ruth Frankenberg went through a variety of emotions when she began interviewing thirty ???white??? women, all different in age (twenty to ninety-three), class, region of origin, family situation, political orientation and sexuality but all living in California at the time of the interviews either in Santa Cruz County or the San Francisco Bay Area. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P 23) The author put emphasize on the fact that the group of interviewees had been diverse but not representatively a cut through white female population as a whole. Accordingly, she mentioned them being better educated than the average female.

The Method: During the process of finding potential interviewees, Frankenberg was facing several problems, ranging from strong opposition on the one hand and topic adjustments on the other. In fact, her question she put at the beginning of her studies ???What is white women??™s relationship to racism???(Frankenberg 1993: P. 32) aroused more critical response than she had expected. Therefore, R.F. had to rethink her strategy. She rephrased her study question a few times, with even concealing the matter of race in it, but with no satisfying results. In the end, she found adequate interviewees with the help of friends and colleagues and sensibly
reformulated her overall question for a last time:???I??™m interested in whether you have had contact with people of racial or cultural groups different from you, and whether you see yourself as belonging to an ethnic or cultural group.???(Frankenberg 1993: P.35) Frankenberg decided to run a smooth and liberal line of questioning. In particular, she gave room for the interviewees to raise questions, add topics of their own, ask about the intention of certain questions and so on. What is more, she refused to stick to a method that was often viewed as the standard way, where the interviewer tries to act as neutral as possible in order to influence the interviewee less. Frankenberg chose to stay with her personal and more intentional style of questioning, leaving more space for the interviewers mind and ideas to blossom. As a result, she was able to identify with the interviewees and even view herself as being closer to the issues raised. Accordingly, the duration of the interviews varied from three to eight hours. Her method of interpreting the narratives told by the interviewees was to analyze them according to their internal coherence and contradiction, in relation to each other, and in the context of a broader social history. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.45)

3) Growing Up White: The Social Geography of Race

In this chapter the author was seeking to provide the reader with a short insight about the geographical structure and social circumstances of five women??™s upbringing (one grew up middle class, the other four in working class homes). (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.44) The selected women (aged between twenty-five and thirty-six at the time of the interviews) were not intended to be largely representative; instead they should function as stereotypes for white experience and open the reader??™s minds for her critical approach to ???elaborate a method for making visible and analyzing the racial structuring of white experience.???(Frankenberg 1993: P. 44) Frankenberg??™s objective was to display in how far geographical structure and social interactions were interwoven with the development of a racial consciousness during the interviewee??™s upbringing. Geographical structure refers to the degree of ethical segregation within an area. Likewise, social interactions concentrates on the amount of time that was spend on communicating with ethically different groups. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.44) Overall, everybody described the relationships to ethnically other people during their childhood as fairly unproblematic. Especially as youngsters they had been unaware that something like a race difference even existed. Instead the interactions went just naturally with perhaps the awareness of being outwardly distinct. With growing age the conscious of race grew: ???All of these women encountered racial hierarchy and racist mythology once they were outside a limited, protected space.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.69) As Frankenberg further summarized: ???In all of these narratives, landscape and the experience of it were racially structured – […] class intersected with race [??¦]??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.69) At the end of the chapter the author again stressed the uniqueness of those narratives and their fragility according to the time-gap that lay between the experience and their recapitulation. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.70)

4) Race, Sex, and Intimacy 1: Mapping a Discourse

In this chapter, Frankenberg made an attempt on scrutinizing the discourse surrounding the experiences about interracial relationships made by her interviewees with a special focus on racism. In fact, she tried to examine in how far their judgments of past events were shaped by historically constructed stereotypes in regards to masculinity, femininity and racism that were enacted upon them via social discourse in their families or elsewhere. At the beginning, R.F. provides the reader with a broad outline about the historical background of interracial tensions within the USA, ranging from the legislation of the first antimiscegenation law, which was enacted in Maryland in 1661, to their abolition in 1967 by the Supreme Court. This was the time when the women R.F. had interviewed also made experience with the effect of the abolition of the segregation law, which separated white from black students. Hence, Frankenberg was able to trace those historical influences in the women??™s responses, which she laid down in excerpts in this chapter. Overall, Frankenberg tried to display a varied discourse by illustrating different narratives, but one of her conclusions brings it to the point: ???Interracial relationships symbolically challenge the boundaries of communities structured by race and culture??”but more than that, publically acknowledged and socially sanctioned interracial relationships challenge a hierarchical structuring of racial and ethnic communities that supports an economic hierarchy organized in part along racial lines.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.100) She further concluded that interracial relationships had to face such strong opposition because ???centuries of economic, legal, political, and cultural processes reinforced one another to produce and maintain white-initiated, selective hostility toward interracial relationships.???(Frankenberg 1993: P.100)

5) Race, Sex, and Intimacy 2: Interracial Couples and Interracial Parenting

In chapter five, the author approached the discourse, which had been illustrated in the previous chapter, on another level. She did this by cautiously examining, in how far racism played a role for white women in primary relationships with partners or children of color. R.F. tackled this task with a thorough analysis of selected narratives ranging from skin group quarrels of a ???mixed??? couple to parents facing difficulties within their community because of having a ???mixed??? child. Interestingly, the author was able to subdivide the forces of racism based on the narratives into three parts: ???The External Force??? (Frankenberg 1993: P. 110), ???The Rebound Effect??? (Frankenberg 1993: P. 112) and ???The Pressures Within??? (Frankenberg 1993: P. 113). The first subdivision answers in how far pressure from people or established structures (institutions, geographical regions, workplace, etc.) becomes a disturbing factor for the couple. The Rebound Effect explains that repercussions of racism enacted upon the partner or child of color are felt also significantly by the white women and therefore generate a new form of feelings. Subdivision number three covered the most pages, implying that this is accordingly the most complex part. It surely is because it focuses not only on the circumstances in which each partner or child operates its daily routine and therefore experiences racism differently, but it rather examines the consequent effects of those experiences, which are unconsciously brought into the affair, within the relationship of the couple or the family.

6) Thinking Through Race

Chapter six was intended to expose the subtle ideological and individual constructions of the interviewees. Accordingly, the author intended to unfold the interwoven structures of their narratives with their notion of ???essentialist racism???, ???power evasion/color evasion??? and ???race cognizance???. By doing this, R.F. was able to recognize close connections between the interviewer??™s history (upbringing, age, social class, decent, etc.) and the latter discourses. As she found out, most constructs and manners were deeply influenced by the factors mentioned. What is more R.F. critically examined some anecdotes in order to illuminate the all too often overlooked subtleties that lay in some phrases. In fact, she interestingly disclosed constructs within the interviewees??™ speech which she uniquely interpreted. For example, a woman (*1959) had described an incident where her son (child age) reported quite irritated of an occasion where his aunt used the term ???nigger??? and the woman just soothed the situation by pledging for forgiveness on the aunt??™s behalf, because, as she explained, she had always been a kind person. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P. 146) R.F. inferred from this story that a good person cannot be racist ?????¦causation here is reversed: a person who is good cannot by definition be racist ??¦??? (Frankenberg 1993: P. 147). Accordingly, she related this insight to be a part of the power-evasive repertoire and explained its significance: ?????¦ for this is the logic that undergirds legislative and judicial approaches to both workplace race discrimination and hate crime, placing the burden of proof on the intent of the perpetrator rather than on the effects of an event or situation on its victim(s).??? (Frankenberg 1993: P. 147) Another approach of Thinking Through Race is to reveal the instability of the color- and power evasion discourse or repertoire as it is, according to Frankenberg, nothing more than a superficial white construct, which upholds social hierarchies rather than to undermine them. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P. 188-189) Based on narratives from women who were ???raised in the context of a well-established color-and power-evasive hegemony??? (Frankenberg 1993: P. 160) Frankenberg was able to trace those influences in their speech and therefore illustrated their weak settlement within the race-cognizant discourse. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.161-176) On the other hand, she presented narratives from women who were more firm with it. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.176-188)The key to those differences comes natural and was reasoned by Frankenberg in regards to the latter women with an extended engagement in feminist as well as political activism (antiracist work) during the 1960s and 1970s and the opportunity to sense cultural diversity from early on. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.187) Overall, Frankenberg summarized that the color and power evasion discourse was dominant in the narratives from all women interviewed. This phenomenon was also most prevalent in the United States. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.189)

7) Questions of Culture and Belonging

The first part of this chapter provides the reader with a taste of the difficulties with which the interviewees struggled when asked about their conceptions of white culture. In fact, many women even denied belonging to a culture. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.192) Why was that so Frankenberg traced a certain aversion towards the women??™s own cultural inheritance (white culture): ?????¦ the women at times named both whiteness and Americanness as distinctively ???bad??? cultures and undesirable identities because of their links to systems of domination.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.192) As she proceeds in the chapter, she unfolds this phenomenon by quoting and analyzing some of the women??™s narratives. The colonial heritage as well as the imperialistic tendency of the United States??™ proofed to be a crucial factor in disconcerting the interviewee??™s minds in this respect. In addition, the interviewee??™s notion of white culture was exposed by Frankenberg to be perceived as materialistic, capitalistic, and therefore contrived. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.199) As a result, she could not deploy a detailed picture of white culture. Instead, she argued that white culture was unconsciously perceived by the interviewees to be the norm and that everything that differs from this norm was considered cultural. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.204) Therefore, R.F. advocated that white women must broaden their horizon in respect to their culture or to their cultural heritage. She also discussed the term culture in a closer sense and concluded that culture is not an inherent stable construct, but a dynamic process which is ???permeable??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.233) or continuously shaped by the interplay between the global inhabitants, which is for itself based on history. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.194) Hence, she concluded that everybody belongs to a culture. What is more, Frankenberg explored that language, social- class, ethnical heritage, religion, social life and political salience constitute the framework for developing a cultural awareness. Accordingly, the more one of these aspects is dominant within a group, the closer knit becomes their cultural identity. In the concluding part of this chapter Frankenberg put forward another interesting phenomenon: ???Whiteness, as a set of normative cultural practices, is visible most clearly to those it definitively excludes and those to whom it does violence.??? (Frankenberg 1993: P.228) This suggested a core statement of this chapter as it can be applied to other fields of her study were domination or hierarchy takes place. In relation, the author emphasized the importance of equating the power of white dominance to reinstall a healthy sense of whiteness or white cultural identity. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.232)

VII. Summary

Out of a scarcity that had filled the work and conscious of white female feminist??™s towards a racial awareness in the 1980??™s, R.F. produced an argumentative book based on empirical observation which was intended to remedy this deficit. Looking at life history interviews from thirty white women, aged twenty to ninety-three and of different decent and social class, she was seeking to illustrate the interweaving of geographical decent, social relationships, social class, parenting, generation, ethnicity, political orientation, gender and present-day geographical location in regards to the interviewee??™s notion and construction of race or as she named it ???whiteness???. As she concluded ???whiteness??? is nothing inherently stable rather something dynamic what adopts to time and space. Accordingly, she traced and exposed subtle understandings of discourses which she divided in three paradigms. The first was named ???Essentialist-racism??? upon which the others were build on, the second and still most prevalent one in the United States according to Frankenberg was ???colour and power evasion??? and the third discourse was termed ???race-cognizance??? which grounds on the strive for racial equality. Another insight that the author gained from the interviewees was the lack of a cultural identity, as they mostly thought of their (???white???) culture as the norm and regarded everything apart from this norm as cultural. She explained this phenomenon as being the result of a five hundred year old imperialistic legacy in foreign politics of the United States and as she argued this old discursive element must be replaced by a new awareness. In the further discussion of ???Race, Sex, and Intimacy???, ???Growing up White??? or ???Thinking Through Race??? R.F. continuously attempted to hold up a mirror to all white women and present them examples to make them rethink their own construction of ???whiteness???.
In short, changing present and future meanings of whiteness for Frankenberg entailed altering a whole system and its distribution of power which can only be achieved by a collective mass.

VIII. Feedback

As can be seen from the length of the section ???chapters under review???, this book requests a closer analysis, for omitting it, the complexity of the author??™s examination would simply not be graspable. That is, she approached to examine the interweaving of the materialistic as well as the discursive repertoires of her interviewees??™ narratives, which constitutes an almost insurmountable field of study when one takes their inseparability of history into account. Frankenberg??™s interpretations were supported with excerpts from the interviews or her inferences were directly derived from them. However, her statements appeared most of the time fairly generalizing. In fact, R.F. gave little reference to other fields of study, which aroused a sense of subjectivity. Although, in advocating her core thesis (???race shapes white women??™s lives???) she succeeded as she was able to vividly underline her arguments with anecdotes from her interviewees and to even let me rethink my own perception of ???whiteness???.
Therefore, I think that this book fulfilled its goal, as it left enough place for further discussion.

IX. enlargement upon aspects from the text
and critical discussion

The other side of the coin

As we have only seen one side of the coin from the above scrutiny of Ruth Frankenberg??™s analysis of white women??™s perception and construction of ???whiteness??? it would be worth looking at the other side. That is, chapter eleven of Bell Hooks??™ book Race and Representations, Boston 1992, P.165-178, provides an insight about the representation of whiteness in the black imagination. Unlike Ruth Frankenberg, Bell Hooks grounded her text not on life-history interviews but on her own experiences and frames them with references to political activist quotations. Therefore, her text appears on the one hand subjective and provoking but on the other fairly balanced.
What is more, in contrast to Frankenberg, Hooks style of writing is highly outspoken, sometimes ironical and even sarcastic. In fact, Hooks, who is a feminist and political activist, gathered first-hand experience when she grew up with her family in a segregated all black community and alongside racial apartheid in the 1960??™s.(c.f. Hooks 1992: P.170) Therefore, Hooks appears emotionally involved in the racist issue, which makes it difficult to proof her statements on an academic level. Expression where she spoke of white people as ???ghosts??? (Hooks 1992: P.165) or ???barbarians??? (Hooks 1992: P.165) evoke feelings of revenge or simply subjectivity. In contrast, when white women in Frankenberg??™s book conscious or unconsciously utilised aspersions towards black people, they did not so because of bad experience but from their learned and constructed perception of being superior. (c.f. Frankenberg 1993: P.52) This phenomenon, which R.F. referred to as colour and power evasion, had been exposed several times throughout her book. This fact is also described by Hooks. Namely, she referred to this issue as the ???control of the black gaze??? (Hooks 1992: P.168) arguing: ???In white supremacist society, white people can safely imagine that they are invisible to black people since the power they have historically asserted, and even now collectively assert over black people accorded them the right to control the black gaze.??? (Hooks 1992: P.168) In addition, she mentioned the according historical background, which was built on the dehumanisation of black people by forbidding them to look white people straight in the eyes. She even furthered that white people could conveniently believe that there would be no sense of whiteness in the black imagination since there is still some kind of segregation going on in the United States. (Hooks 1992: P.168) Thus, white people may assume being able to establish pleasing pictures of themselves in black people??™s minds. Hooks who refers to this phenomenon as ???fantasy of whiteness??? (Hooks 1992: P.169) argues that this was and still is the practice in contemporary America, and as a consequence, this ???fantasy of whiteness??? has the power to equate whiteness with goodness. This aspect has been also a part of Ruth Frankenberg??™s discussion.
Besides, Hooks asserts that whiteness can be equated with terror saying: ???All black people in the United States, irrespective of their class status or politics, live with the possibility that they will be terrorized by whiteness.??? (Hooks 1992: P.175) Behind this backdrop, as a child she experienced the traumatic effects of racial apartheid in the United States and hitherto she senses white terror in form of institutionalized domination and discrimination by white people. (c.f. Hooks 1992: P.176) In comparison, Frankenberg wrote about the historical white imperialistic and colonial legacy and its impact on white women??™s construction of whiteness and was able to trace hidden meanings of dominance in their utterances. Additionally, the issue of power imbalance and white dominance is a key factor in Frankenberg??™s discussion on whiteness. Hence, Hooks??™ statement about white supremacy can not only be found again in some of the narratives of the interviewees but throughout the whole discussion about whiteness in Ruth Frankenberg??™s book.
Hooks, who is speaking on behalf of all black people in the U.S., sees herself unheard and facing an overwhelming power of white institutionalized superiority. That is, Hooks argues that the power of whiteness lies first of all in the historically asserted power over black people and in the ???fantasy of whiteness??? (Hooks 1992: P.170), which implies a white almightiness over the black conscious. Therefore, Hooks illustrated the difficulty of black people to challenge that dominance. That is, racist scrutiny by black people towards whiteness even if justifiable because of epic oppression is conversed by white people because of their asserted ???myth of sameness???(Hooks 1992: P.167). ???Their amazement that black people watch white people with a critical ???ethnographic??? gaze, is itself an expression of racism. Often their rage erupts because they believe that all ways of looking that highlight difference subvert the liberal belief in a universal subjectivity(we are all just the same)that they think will make racism disappear.??? In this statement one can trace a certain subtle irony, but the ???myth of sameness??? can also be traced in various expressions by Frankenberg??™s interviewees, where she in contrast refers to as the power and colour evasive repertoire.
Hooks??™ experiences as a child are similar to a white woman cited by R.F. yet they are totally the opposite.(Frankenberg 1993: P.51-52 Patricia Bowen) In fact, when Hooks grew up in an area socially constructed by racial apartheid, she likewise stated her apprehensions towards the unknown white people living near their community. (c.f.Hooks 1992: P.171) ???What did I see in the gazes of those white men who crossed our thresholds that made me afraid, that made black children unable to speak??? (c.f.Hooks 1992: P.170) In contrast, Patricia Bowen a white woman who grew up in the 1960??™s in an also segregated area stated: ???[??¦]I never got hurt but they threatened you a little bit [??¦] So I grew up learning that Black people were dangerous.??? They both mentioned fear towards the other side, besides, they never made any bad experiences with them themselves. Hence, we see that the apprehensions towards the unknown others was nothing more than the result of a socially constructed myth surrounding each part. This in result would raise the question: If we eradicate racial thinking, would discrimination also be eliminated

The answer

Amy Gutmann took on this task of tackling the question and explored that it is not only the issue of , as she termed it, ???race consciousness??? (c.f. Appiah, Gutmann 1996: P.163) which is responsible for separating people and their minds.
Nationality, ethnicity and culture are other nonracialist ways of separating people, according to the author, and, it is therefore not crucial to expose the fiction of racial identification. (c.f. Appiah, Gutmann 1996: P.164) In addition, she argued that human weakness is the very reason for supremacy, domination, oppression, discrimination and racism in the world. In fact, humans lack the ability to develop an encompassing group feeling which would in result equate us and grant everybody the same treatment. (c.f. Appiah, Gutmann 1996: P.164) Likewise, the psychological power of grouping together with ???members of one??™s own race??? (Appiah, Gutmann 1996: P.164) can on the one hand be regarded as a natural process, but on the other hand it can be judged as a racial attitude. (c.f. Appiah, Gutmann 1996: P.164)

An Excurse

When I came across an article in the Time Magazine, I was able to draw a parallel to the phenomenon of grouping together. The article described a German author (Gunter Wallraff) who transformed himself into a black person, with the help of a professional make-up artist, and then went through various occasions in order to experience the difference of being black. The outcome was appalling as well as revealing. For example, he described an incident where the image of humans grouping together and separating from the other is perfectly epitomized. That is, he as a fake black person went with his family (naturally black accomplices) to a German campsite and asked for a permanent carport. In the end he was denied because of not belonging to the group which usually camped there: Germans, Dutchmen, Luxembourger (all white men). (c.f. Zeit Magazin: 43, Wallraff, P.13) Amy Gutmann would explain this incident by referring to a principle which she explains like this: The fact that the man who denied the writer access to the campsite was obviously doing so because of his race consciousness. A race consciousness concentrates on the believe to differentiate human beings on matters of genetical and therefore biological difference. Whereas, a colour consciousness separates by features of phenotypical stigmata such as skin colour. (c.f. Appiah, Gutmann 1996: P.163) That is, he perceived the man as a distinct individual. Why is that so First, the race consciousness is a learned and not instinctive pattern. (c.f. Appiah, Gutmann 1996: P.166) In addition, ???[??¦] the persistence of race consciousness (as distinguished from colour consciousness) has the psychological tendency to transfer the moral evil of discriminatory institutions into presumptions of morally relevant differences among individuals.??? (Appiah, Gutmann 1996: P.166) This suggests that the man identified with a certain group, which obviously only accepted members of the same race and in addition, he must have transferred this principle from an exemplary discriminatory institution, hence, the institution of the campsite, which was obviously unfair towards outsiders.
The anecdote can also be underlined with another statement from Gutmann: ???This sense of animosity among groups typically leads to unjust and undemocratic discriminations in the distribution of basic liberties and opportunities.??? (Appiah, Gutmann 1996: P.164) Hence, in this example the disguised author was deprived of the opportunity to enjoy his freedom of choice, which should actually be granted every individual living under the German constitution.


Whiteness and the matter of race are closely interconnected and have proven to be an exhaustive field of study. We have discovered throughout Ruth Frankenberg??™s live history interviews that ???whiteness shapes women??™s lives???, but that the inheritance of a historical legacy is equally crucial when one is about to scrutinize the ???racialness??? of people. Bell Hooks provided another perspective on whiteness, namely from the other side of the coin, which proved to be very different. But especially due to this difference, new perspectives on the topic were generated. That is, the construction of black people in the white imagination, the construction of whiteness in the black mind and the historically asserted dominance of white people over black folks.


XI. bibliography

??? Frankenberg, Ruth 1993: White Women, Race Matters. The Social Construction of Whiteness. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis.
??? Hooks, Bell 1992: Race and Representations. Boston 1992.
??? Appiah, K. Anthony and Gutmann, Amy 1996: Color Conscious. The Political Morality of Race. Princeton University Press.

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