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KatarinaZito

WhitenessinAmericainthe21stCentury
Introduction

InthispaperIwillcriticallyanalyzewhatitmeanstobewhiteinAmericainthe21st

century.IwillusetheStateoftheRe:UnionpodcastAsblackaswewanttobe,whichtells

thestoryofafairskinnedthatisdividedbecausehalfidentifyasnegroandtheotheridentify

aswhite.IwillprovideargumentsonwhitenessinAmericabyanalyzingRachelDolzeals

uniquestory.Dolzealisawhitewomanwhohasstirredcontroversialissueofadifference

betweenidentifyingasblackandbeingAfricanAmerican.Iwillcontinueontoprovideseveral

perspectivesofwhitemillennialsinDallas,astheysharetheirexperienceofraceinAmerica.I

willalsouseaspectsofpassingaswhiteinAmericafromtheNPRpodcast'AChosenExile':

BlackPeoplePassinginWhiteAmerica.Finally,Iwillsharemypersonalreflectionofmy

experienceasanAfricanAmericanwoman,raisedinawhitefamilyandwhitecommunity,on

whatitmeanstobewhiteinAmerica.

AsBlackasWeWishtoBe

ThesettingofthispodcasttakesplaceinEastJacksonMississippi.Clairsyisfairskinned

withredhair.However,sheis1/16thblackbecausehergreatgrandfatherwasblack.Accordingto

herbirthcertificate(whichshekeepsinherpurseatalltimes),sheisnegro.Shehasbeenraised

tobelievesheisanegroandsheisextremelyproudtocallherselfnegro.Thecommunityshe

livesinalsoviewherandherfamilyasnegros.Herdaughters,CarlottaandAlison,havealso
beenraisedtoidentifyasnegro.Hereldest,Carlotta,isalsoproudtoidentifyasnegro,however,

Alison,heryoungest,believesherappearanceiswaytowhitetobeblack.Sheclaimsthat

thereisnothingwrongwithbeingblack,butshewasmiserablewhenshewasidentifiedas

negro(Letson,2012).Alisonhasspentherlifesinceshewasoldenoughtospeakforherself,

identifyingaswhite.Shewasbulliedforbeingapartofthenegrocommunitywhenshewas

young.Shesharesanexperienceinthepodcastofatimeshewasbulliedforridingtheblack

bus(Letson,2012).Anotherwhitestudentinsinuatedthatshewasdirty,andneededdeodorant

becauseofabeliefthatblacksaredirty.Shecontinuestosayshereceivednoassistancefromher

teacher.

Thesummerbeforesheattendedtohighschool,shetransformedheridentitybyfinding

newfriendswithnoknowledgeofherpastorconnectiontoherfamily,thisiswhenshedecided

toidentifyaswhite.Onherfirstdayofschool,shereportedtohermother,thatshehashada

greatday,becauseshewasnowseenaswhite(Letson,2012).HersisterCarlottaontheother

hand,whokeptheridentityasanegro,wasteasedallthroughouthighschool.Alisoneventook

partonpickingonheroravoidingher,sothatshecouldseparateherselffromhernegro

family.Alisonneverallowedherclosefriendstomeetherfamily,andmadeexcuseswhenshe

wasquestionedaboutthem.Shewouldsayhersisterhadadifferentmomordadthatwas

marriedintothefamily,andthatshedidntevenlikethem,inorderkeepheraccessintothe

whitecommunityshehasentered.(Letson,2012).ToAlison,beingconsideredblackwas

miserable,whilebeingwhitewaseasierLetson,2012).Yearslater,whenAlisonbroughtback

aboyfriendtohermothershouse,heendedtherelationshipsoonafterhermotherexposedher

blacknesstohim,becausehedidntbelieveininterracialdating.Tothisyoungman,Alison
wasnegrobecauseherfamilyidentifiedasnegro,althoughherappearancewasofanormal

whitegirl(Letson,2012).Alisonalsohastwochildrenthatshehasraisedaswhite,tothe

dismayofhermother.

Inthepodcast,ClarisystatesthatAlisonslittleson,Caleb,willcryifyoutellhimhes

black.HerdaughterLinessa,however,islikeheroldersisterCarlotta,andisperfectlycontent

withembracingthenegrolabel.Alisonreasonsthatherchildren,doesntwantherfamilytobe

treatedthewayhersisterwastreatedbecauseshefeelslikeitisunfairforherfairskinned,

blondehairedbabies,tobelabeledasnegro.

AlisonviewswhitenessinAmericaastheeasyroute.Throughhertransformationinto

thewhiteworld,sheisabletosecureabetterjob,house,car,andneighborhood,thanherfamily

does.Carlottabelievesthatalthoughhersistergainedmaterialgoodsandstatus,Alisonslifehas

resultedinloneliness(Letson,2012).Herplanistomoveawayfromherenvironmentassoonas

hermotherpassestocompletelydisassociateherselfwithher,communityinEastJacksonand

herfamilysharmfulidentifier.

RachelDolzeal

RachelDolzeal,isawhitewomanwhohasrecentlyidentifiesherselfasblack.Rachel

Dolzealhasbecomeatargetforscrutinybecauseofherdesiretoclaimblackwomanhood,

despitebeingbornofawhitefamily.InaninterviewbythewomenofTheRealaTVtalk

show,shediscusseshowsheviewswhitenessasastateofmind,ratherthanarace(TheReal

(TV),2015).Oneoftheinterviewers,respondstothisclaimasuntrue,becauseinacivilrights

setting,suchaspolicestops,whitenesscanresultinsafetyandjusttreatmentfrompolice

officers.Rachelcontinuestostatethatblacknesscanbedefinesascultural,philosophical,
cultural,[and]biological,shesaysthatnooneexperienceofablackwomanisinexistence

(TheReal(TV),2015).Anotherreasonforscrutinyposedagainstherisduetoherexperienceat

HowardUniversity,aprominenthistoricallyblackcollege.

Rachelreasonsthatwhenfillingoutforms,shewouldcheckwhiteandblackifthere

weredesignatedboxestocheck,becausehumanshavehumanoriginsincontinentofAfrica

(TheReal(TV),2015).ToRachel,raceismoreofacomplexitythanskindeep(Dixon,2017).

InaninterviewbyTheNewYokTimes,reportedthatDolzealwastheheadoftheSpokane

chapteroftheNAACP,anartist,ateacherofblackthemedsubjects.RonaldPotter,herbrother

inlaw,describesherasablackgirlinawhitebody(TheNewYorkTimes,2015).

Essentially,Dolzealhasmadeeffortstopassasblack.However,becauseoftheimmense

whitenessthatexistsinAmerica,peopledescribeherasboldandbrazen,oras

[misleading]ordeceptive(VanityAffair,2015;NewYorkTimes,2015).Pleasenote,Iwill

furtherdiscusspassingaswhiteinAmerica,apracticethatlighterskinindividualsexercisedin

thepastinordertoreceiveopportunitiesthatwouldnotbeabletobeattainediftheywere

darker.However,inDolzealscase,althoughshehasmadetremendouseffortstopassoverto

theblackAmerica,atornadoofpublicattention(VanityFair,2015).Shecommittedherlife

tobecomingaleaderforracialsocialjusticemovements,becomeanexpertinblackhair,and

taughtclassesinrelationtoAfricanAmericanstudies.Shehasfacedadversityoflosingdear

positionandfriendsalongtheway,butrefusestoreclaimheridentificationasablackwoman

(Vanityfair,2015).InwhiteAmerica,being,orwantingtobeblack,isaglobalpunchlineto

whitesandblacks(VanityFair,2015).Dolzealhasexperiencedtherealityofbeingostracizedin

whiteAmerica,becausesheidentifiesasblack.
ThomasJeffersonStateofVirginia

ThomasJefferson,ournations3rdpresident,andcreatoroftheconceptofrace,outlinesa

listofargumentsforwhyslavesshouldremainunfree(Dixon,2017).Heisthefirstauthorto

expresslyassignqualitiestoskincolor(Dixon,2017).Jeffersonsreasoningsprovide

biologicalandmoralattributesoftheinferiorityofblack,whilesimultaneouslyproviding

definitionsofwhitenessinAmerica.Hebeginshisargumentsbystatingtheobviousdifference

inphysicalskincolor,Thefirstdifference[betweenwhitesandblacks]whichstrikesusisthat

ofcolor....Thedifferenceisfixedinnature.(StateofVirginia,1781).Hecontinues,[are]not

thefinemixturesofredandwhite.preferabletothateternalmonotony,whichreignsinthe

countenances,thatimmoveableveilofblackwhichcoversalltheemotionsoftheotherrace?.

Here,heinsinuatesthatblacksarenoteasilyreadbecauseyoucannotseetheircheeks

blush,likeyoucaninawhiteperson,meaningthatblackscannotbetrusted,likeawhiteperson

can.(StateofVirginia,1781).Hemakesthecasethatwhitesaremorebeautifulthanblacks,

becauseoftheirflowinghairandmoreelegantsymmetryofform.Heevengoesasfartosay

thatblackmenhavedeclaredthatwhitewomenaresuperiorinbeautythantheirownblack

women(StateofVirginia,1781).Hemakesanotherclaimthatblacksrequirelesssleepand

willbeinducedbytheslightestamusementseventhoughtheymustbeout[towork]withthe

firstdawnofthemorning(StateofVirginia,1781).Thisistoexpressthatwhitesaremore

maturethanblacksbecausetheyknowhowtogotobedandberesponsible(Dixon,2017).Later

inhisletterhepointsoutthat,inreason,inferiortowhitesandhavedull,tasteless

imaginations(StateofVirginia,1781).Thisreasoninginfersthatwhitearemoreintelligentand

morecreativethanblacks.
Towardtheendofhisletterhemakeshismostdangerousstatementstowardminoritiesin

America:.Iadvanceitthereforeasasuspiciononly,thattheblacks,whetheroriginallya

distinctraceareinferiortothewhitesintheendowmentsbothofbodyandmind(Stateof

Virginia,1781).Hiswordscreatedbothadefinitionforwhiteness,andimplemented,anentire

legalstructuredevisedtoenforcehissuspicions(Dixon,2017).JeffersonsStateof

VirginialetterprovidesaframeworkofwhitenessinAmerica.

WhitenessProject

TheWhitenessProject,avideoseriesofperspectiveofwhitemillennialsinDallas,also

providesaglimpseintowhatitmeanstobewhiteinAmerica.Iwillusetheperspectivesof

Javier,Hadley,Chaney,ConnerandErictooutlinemoreexamplesofthewhiteexperience.

Javierwasraisedbyhiswhitewasheddad,mom,andstepfather.HisdadisMexican,

andhismomandstepdadarewhite.Hisparentsraisedhimtobelievethatwhitenessissupreme

aboveanyotherrace(whitenessproject.org).HedidntwanttoidentifyasMexicanbecausehe

feltitwasbad.However,hehasrecentlyembracedhisMexican,andGermanorigins.

AccordingthetheWhitenessProject,23%ofmillennialsbelievetheirfamiliescountryoforigin

isessentialtopersonalidentity.

Hadleysharedthatlabelsthatshemostcloselyidentifieswitharehernonbinary,

pansexual,aeromanticideologies(whitenessproject.org).However,sherealizedherprivilege

whensheattendedcourtandreceivedbettertreatmentandlessquestioningthanotheryoung
minorities.Accordingtohervideo31%ofblackstudentsinTexaspublicschoolsaremore

likelytobesubjectedtodisciplinaryactionsthanwhitestudents,despitebeingnomorelikelyto

commitseriousoffenses(whitenessproject.org).Thejudgesimplyrecommendedshegetajob,

andhaveaniceday.Whenhewasoverseeingcasesofminorities,heofferedmorescrutiny

andharsherpunishmentcomparedtoher.

Chaneyisayounggirlwhofeelsthatissuesofracearebehindus.Shestatesthatrace

reparationsforthepastareirrelevanttoday,becauseshepersonallydidntdoanything.She

concludeshervideosayingweshouldalldogoodfor[our]ownrace(Whitenessproject.org).

HerdefinitionofwhitenessinAmericaisegocentric.SheislikemanyotherwhiteAmericans,

whocannotseethehardshipsofminorities.Accordingtohervideo,51%ofwhiteAmericans

thinkslaveryisnotafactoratallinloweraveragewealthofblackAmericans.Shedoesnot

experiencelifeasaminority,soshedoesnothaveaperspectiveofwhatitisliketobeoutsideof

thenorm,sosheisunbothered.Toher,beingwhitemeanstakingresponsibilityonlyifyouare

directlyimpactedorresponsibleforwrongdoing.

Connerfeelsthathewouldbeinjailifhewasnotwhite.Hehasbeenarrestedover

twentytimesfordrugrelatedchargesbut,youwillonlyfindpublicintoxicationonhisrecord.

Inhisvideo,hesaysthepasthasshownhimthatallhehastodoisgetalawyer,suitup,show

up[tocourt]andneverhavetosufferconsequences.HisvideostatedthatWhitemenare6

timeslesslikelytobeincarceratedthanblackmen(whitenessproject.org).Connerstatesthathis

hiswhitenessmakeshimluckybecauseheisabletoavoidseriousconsequenceslikefelony

recordsorjailtime.
EricisthelastexampleIwillusefromTheWhitenessProjectErichasmore

experiencedwiththefrustrationofbeingprofiled.Hehastattoosonhisface,spikyhair,and

wearsrippedclothing.HecertainlydoesnotfittheproperwhiteAmericanexpectation.Ericfeels

hehastotiptoeinconversationswithminoritiesandnonwhitesbecauseofhisphysical

appearance.IfhewearshishairinaMohawkorshowsskinonhishead,heiscalledaNazi.

Heclaimsheisnotracistatallbut,speaksdifferentlywithhiswhitefriendsthanhedoeswith

hisnonwhitefriends.Ericsaysherecognizedhisprivilegewhen,despitehisphysical

appearance,hisnonwhitefriendssendthewhiteguytomakeitbetterwhentalkingwith

policebecauseofhismilitarybackgroundandhisskincolor(Whitenessproject.org).Tohim,

beingwhiteinAmericameansbeingjudgedfornotfittingtheproperwhiteguidelines,butstill

benefitingfrombettertreatmentfrompolice.

Passing

IntheNPRpodcastAChosenExile:BlackPeoplePassinginWhiteAmerica,Karen

BrigsbyBatessharesthestoryofhistorian,AllysonHobbs,whohasresearchedpeoplein

Americawhodecidedtopassaswhite(AChosenExile,2014).Theseindividualswould

transformthemselvestofitinwiththewhitecommunityinordergainbetteropportunitiesand

lifethatwouldotherwisenotbeaffordedtothem.However,Hobbsbelievesthattowritea

historyofpassingistowriteahistoryofloss."Shearguesthatpassingaswhite,resultsina

lossofself,family,community,andtheinabilitytoanswerWhoreareyourpeople?(AChosen

Exile,2014).Hercousin,wasoneofthewomenwhochosetorecreateherself,changehere

name,andmovefromherhomeinNewYork,toCalifornia,soshecouldliveasawhitewoman.
Yearsafterhercousinpassed,hermotheraskedhertoreturnhometoseeherfatherbeforehe

passed.Bynow,hercousinhadmarriedawhitemanandtoldhermothertherewasnoturning

backbecauseshewasawhitewomannow.Hercousinneversawherfamilyagain.Hobbs

statesthathercousin[gained]whitenessand[lost]family(AChosenExile,2014).Shealso

saysshebelievesthathercousinneverwantedtobewhite,shejustwantedtobefree(A

chosenExile,2014).Hobbsobservesthatpassingisnotasprevalenttoday,butthatthereare

stillbenefitsofbeingwhiteinpolitically,socialandeconomicallyaspects(AChosenExile,

2014).HobbswoulddefinewhitenessinAmericaasalossforminorities,butawaytolivefreely

andsuccessfully.

Personalreflection

Whitenessinthe21stcenturymeansmanydifferentthingsforme.GrowingupAfrican

American,inanallwhitefamilyandsurroundedbyanallwhitecommunitygivesmeaunique

aspect.Whiteness,tome,meanscomfortability,security,accesstogoodeducation,respect,and

theabilitytofitin.Whitenessprovidesaccesstoeverything.BeforeIwasadopted,Ilivedwith

mymotherandsister.Mymotherwasverypoor,anddidnothavetheresourcestotakecareof

twochildren.IbelievethathadIstayedwithmybiologicalmother,Iwouldbeanotherpoor

blackkidinAmerica.Itwouldhavemadeitinfinitelyharderformetoreceiveagoodeducation.

Educationwouldnothaveevenbeenimportanttomebecausefeedingmysisterandmyselfwas

mymainconcern.IfIstayedwithmymother,Iwouldbelivinginpoverty,strugglingjustto

survive,ratherthanhavinganormalorwhitechildhood,filledwithroutine,plentytoeat,

andthefreedomtobeakid.onMynew,whitefamily,wasabletoprovidemewithaprivate

education,Ihadtoys,Iwasabletotravelaroundtheworldandexperienceothercultures.
AlthoughIhadeverymaterial,andeducationalbenefit,Iwouldstillstruggletofindaplacein

society.IrememberfeelingunnervedbyallthestaresIreceivedoncepeoplesawIwasoneof

theonlyblackkidsinschool.TherewereevenmorestareswhenIwaswithmyfamily.There

werestaresofconfusion,ofpity,anduneasiness.AsIgrewolder,Iencounteredparentsofsome

ofmyfriends,whodidnotallowtheirchildrentodateblackpeople.Ihadahardtimegetting

alongwithpeoplebecausetheyviewedmeasintimidatingandaloof.Throughouthigh

school,kidswouldteasemeandaskme,Doyoulikefriedchicken,orBlackpeoplelike

watermelonright?.Myfriendswouldoftentrytosetmeupwiththeonlyotherblackboyin

school.Iknewmanywhitekidswhodisobeyedthelaw,butreceivednopunishment.Things

wereoftensweptundertherug.WhenIgottocollege,itwasarepeatofhighschool.Ididnt

fitinwithblackorwhite.Thewhitepeoplearoundmeareaffluent,blessedwithopportunities

andnonofthemthinkaboutracewhereasIhavethoughtaboutmyraceeverydayIexist.Being

whiteseemseasiertome,mybiologicalyoungersister,Omi,hasfairskin,lightbrownhair,and

greeneyes.Herexperienceismuchdifferentthanmine.Nooneeverdescribedherashavingan

attitudeproblemorsassy.Shefitineasilyandwasgenerallyacceptedbyeveryone.In

comparisontoherexperienceandmine,IbelievethatwhitenessinAmericameansacceptance,

benefitsandliberation.

Conclusion

Inconclusion,whitenessinAmericaisthenorm.Tobewhite,meansyouhavemore

freedomtoexpressyourselfandtochaseopportunities.Itmeansopendoors,andtheabilityto

getsecondchances.IfyouarewhiteinAmerica,youdontfeelthestaresconstantly.Whiteness

allowsyoumorefreedomtobewhoyoureallyareandaspiretobe.Whitenessmeans
representationandpower.Actingwhitemeansacceptancewhileactingblackmeans

discrimination.WhitenessinAmericainthe21stcentury,doesnotguaranteeblessingsand

prosperity,butitbecomesmucheasiertoobtain.

WorksCited

Leton,Al.AsBlackasWeWishtoBe.http://stateofthereunion.com/pikecountyohasblack

aswewishtobe/:StateofRe:Union(Podcast).
TheReal(TalkShow).Racevs.StateofMind:RachelDolezal'sThoughtsonWhiteness.

Youtube.com.2015

Johnson,Kirk,RichardPrezPea,andJohnEligon."RachelDolezal,inCenterofStorm,Is

Defiant:'IIdentifyasBlack'."TheNewYorkTimes.TheNewYorkTimes,16June2015.

Samuels,Allison,andJustinBishop."RachelDolezal'sTrueLies."TheHive.VanityFair,21

July2015.

TheWhitenessProjectvideoseries:http://whitenessproject.org/

Bates,Brigsby,Karen.'AChosenExile':BlackPeoplePassingInWhiteAmerica.

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/10/07/354310370/achosenexileblackpeople

passinginwhiteamericaNPRpodcast.2014.