Guernica Magazine

White Girls at the Table

On the privilege of disappearing. The post White Girls at the Table appeared first on Guernica.
Grammar school, class V. By Augustine H. Folsom. From the collections of the Boston Public Library.

I used to teach a class to architecture students in which we read an essay called “Welcome to the Banquet.” The general premise is that when you enter the field of architecture, when you’re heading out into the world, you pick a table at which to sit, a group of thinkers with whom to engage. The essay is written by a female architect, but there is no mention of asking permission to sidle up to any of these tables once you choose. There is no caveat about the ones at which you may or may not be allowed. This feels, to me, like a glaring oversight. I’ve been thinking, lately, my whole life maybe, about who gets to sit down and at what cost.

More specifically, most recently, I’ve been thinking about the role of white women at the table. We have almost always been invited. We’ve been present, to look pretty, to offer counsel; perhaps, a hand squeezed under the table when a voice is raised too loud.

We’ve always had a place, but that place is constantly in conflict with itself. We’re there but why and to what purpose; we’re there, but we’ve seldom had sufficient power to feel sure we’ll get to stay. There’s a certain safety in that and also a certain danger, a presumption of value that often goes unproven, a level of

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