I'm disappointed with Adam Serwer. Ever since I started following his blog at American Prospect, he seems to have gone short attention span theatre on me. I know that when you're in the zone, you can keep up with every little thing, but a lot of crap creeps in. For example, I have no reason to expect that any sensible American would pay attention to anything Donald Trump says, and yet he has bought the attention of millions. So one of the things that slipped through Serwer's keyboard was this retweet:
Harvard. RT @KathaPollitt I know, they wouldn't let me in because i'm white. And not a law student. But mostly because I'm white.
My immediate answer is, well hell Katha, if you want to represent that way, you're exactly as white as you want to be. My general goodwill position is equally reflective. If there is something in 'white' that is not racial, then it is entirely the choice of the individual. Same thing counts for 'black'. We all pretty much parotted the same thing all through the 90s and 00s. Race is a cultural construct. That means it can be constructed and of course as the drooling pomo scholars know, it can be deconstructed. But what if Katha is not in charge of her whiteness, at all? What if blackness is an American essentialism and so is whiteness? What if they are inescapable? What if white Americans can never be anything but what non-whites say they are?
Not that I like getting into the subject, but I cannot avoid the question. How white exactly are white people and do you 'as a white person' believe that you are in control of your whiteness?
If you are in control of your whiteness, what exactly do you want it to mean? Does that work for you? If you are not in control and want to escape your whiteness, what exactly is it you want to leave behind? Can you? If you're somewhere in the middle, how do you see it in other white people?
My opinion, which I'm sure I will have to explain two or three times, is that of course every American inherits a reductionist racial identity and that it is up to them to shed that skin. For some people it's important for others it is not. I say racism is primarily in the gaze, not in the being, so I have reversed my Race Traitor (as in Tim Wise) position on whiteness studies. I no longer say that white people must invest a great deal of thought and energy into undoing their identity for America to be what it should. That applies equally to black Americans and everyone else. The first step in demonstrating your racism starts with such prescriptions as "I cannot fulfill my human potential until ____ people do the following.."
So white people. What's up with being white? You know who you are.