controlling the discourse

July 31, 2008 at 8:05 pm (Uncategorized)

so i have been thinking alot about how white folks control the discourse. and there is alot that i could say on the topic. but what it comes down to is that white folks need to have a ‘positive white identity’. you see this constantly. not only does it have to be a ‘positive white identity’ but it has to be their version of a ‘positive white identity’.

okay but why do white folks have to feel positive about being white? part of me thinks that well everyone wants to feel positive about all parts of their identity. but is that realistic? i mean, i dont feel positive about being a citizen of the united states. i know that i am incredibly privileged, but that isnt a good thing. im not trying to be that ‘good’ us citizen. there is no possibility for that. i dont really feel guilty about it either. i feel responsible. its not a burden. but it is my responsibility to confront and dismantle the us empire following the leadership of third world communities. which is why i do not want to live in this country. and why i am going to university in the west bank palestine. i know that some people think that i should ‘work in the belly of the beast’ but there is something (alot!) about using your privilege to dismantle your privilege. it is bad logic. it is ineffective. and it reinforces the power of the us and my us citizenship. whatever good work i do in this world will not be because of my privilege. that much i know.

anyways, i know ive said all that before…but a new insight came to me recently that i wanted to share:

when i look at my privilege as a us citizen, one of the things that strikes me is that most us citizens grow up believing that we have it the best. thank god, we were born here, and not in one of those inferior countries in asia or africa or south american or hell, even europe. we have the best living conditions. the best indoor plumbing. the best toys. the best guns. the best nukes. the most money. the best culture. the best government. the best freedom. we are better than any other country. that is why we are proud of our citizenship. because in the hierachy of life…we sit on the top of the ant hill. everything is better here. our standard of living is the best.

and now. that it is slowly dawning on us, or cyclically whenever it dawns on us, that there may be other folks in other countries who enjoy a better standard of living than us, we become shaky. what do we have to proud of if we are not the best anymore?

well, i think the same thing happens to white folks. it is no longer acceptable to say directly: the white race is the best race. but most white folks really do believe that being white is better. thank god they were not born black or brown or red or yellow. reminds me of a chris rock joke: there is a bus boy right now who wouldnt trade positions with me. he’s like ‘naw, im going to ride this white thing out…’ and i’m rich!

white identity is founded on what white is not. not ‘them’. not black. whites have the best leaders. the best culture. the most money. the best manners. the best beauty. the most civilized. the best languages. the best history. the best science. the best literature. the best heritage. the best logic. the best. the most. the winners.

i used to be an antiracism trainer/consultant. and there is a part in the workshop where white folks are supposed to say what it means to them to be white. and usually the response is dead silence. dead. empty. blank. silence. and as i was facilitating these dumbass workshops i always wanted to scream: it means being the best race. you cant say that. because you would sound like you are trying to sign up for the kkk. you cant say that because you know that that is the one thing a liberal white guy cant say. but that is what it means. you know it. and i know it. and that is all it means. the only thing it means to you is that you are a part of the best race. and you are grateful to god that you are. white. pure. and empty.

and you have the best discourse. whatever are the cultural norms of whiteness automatically must be better. not just what you are used to. or what you grew up with. or how you were encultured. but the best discourse. and how do you know it is the best discourse? because the best leaders and the best historians and the best culture and the best writers and the best teachers and the best people say it is the best discourse. and how do you know that you have the best writers? well, do i have to go through the logic again?
so whenever i was facilitating those workshops, and i wasnt allowed to scream the answer. and i would listen to white folks struggling with their identity. and i would just start counting the stains on the carpet or doodle fairies in my notebook, and then take a bathroom break. and then someone would cry or start attacking someone else cuz they needed attention. and i would think to myself i wish i could just tell them that: you have been brought up and you still believe that you are the best race. you do not prefer your ways just because you are used to them but because you believe your ways are the best. that is all it means to be white. that is all. that is all it will ever mean. that is all white was ever meant to mean. racial categories were created by white folks in order to say: whites are the best. for the rest of the races, whites inscribed a series of stereotypes, lies, demonic characteristics that had nothing to do with the peoples and communities that were being annihilated. but all you needed to know was that you were the best.

that is all you need to know now.

that is all you need to believe about being white. that your ways are the best ways.

and because whiteness is best. the most. you insist on controlling the discourse. its not like you want to control it all the time. you only want to control it whenever someone says or implies that you do not belong to the best race.

you dont need a positive white identity. there is no such thing.

you dont need to assert the good things that white culture has done.

you dont need to assert the good things that the us has done.

you dont need to find pride in being an american…

you need a reality check.

and let go of the discourse.

As James Baldwin once said: If a White person knows they don’t wanna be Black, they know everything there is to know about you.



  1. soyluv said,

    this piece is amazing. talk about hitting the nail on the proverbial head.

  2. Some Semblance of Self « creative commess said,

    […] posts and calling people out on shit, in bylines, or even comments—there inside that post pertaining to race & racism over here, or that thread dealing with white female privilege over there, or the problems with mainstream […]

  3. mssexy said,

    You are simply amazing! I wish I knew you as my very own friend personally.

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