America has shown us the superiority of whiteness and how it has an influence on society. We see it in our everyday lives with the way our lives are structured and divided, the way we are raised to a certain standard based on the colour of our skin and the privileges it holds. We see this through history when we look at national politicians like Jim Crow who implemented segregation in the South or how immigrants are being treated by the hands of white supremacists. In the following essay, we will look at proof of this and how whiteness has come to be, how whiteness is linked to race and how whiteness has power in society.
“The power of Whiteness, however, is manifested by the ways in which racialized Whiteness becomes transformed into social, political, economic, and cultural behaviour. White culture, norms, and values in all these areas become normative natural. They become the standard against which all other cultures, groups, and individuals are measured and usually found to be inferior” (Henry and Tator 45-47). Whiteness is a learned behaviour that is spread through a wide variety of our everyday lives which gives power to the white man to feel superior. Whiteness means the social, racial, political, economic and cultural privileges of the white person that has been normalised and is seen as the normal behaviour in our modern society.
“As real situations, the social construction of ‘race’ and whiteness and their social significance are intimately linked to the history” (Guess 654). How can we link whiteness to history? How is it still relevant even when slavery and/or segregation ended so many years ago? In many ways, race can be a main argument to why whiteness has the power in society. We can argue that it’s caused from being implemented in the 1600’s when slavery came to be or how in South-Africa we had apartheid. People of colour insisted on whiteness being a conscious choice, white people knew if they kept on hiring white people for jobs, that white people would always stay on top and would have more economic opportunities. Whiteness is still relevant in modern times due to the fact that racism still exists, this is what is keeping whiteness alive.
Statistically white men with a criminal record are more likely to get an interview than people of colour with no criminal record. How does whiteness influence the workplaces? If you go look in the small details, you can see whiteness profoundly in a workplace with the way discussions are handled, how serious a situation is taken into account or even having the luxury to be able to work for a family member when finding a job is a struggle. Studies have found that job applicants with white sounding names are 50% more likely to receive a call back for a job interview than applicants with black-sounding names, even when all job related qualifications and credentials are the same. A black person has a better chance of receiving a job when it’s a hard labour job. The root of this problem is often ignored when needing to address that whiteness is the cause for all of this. “White privilege is both unconsciously enjoyed and consciously perpetuated”. Peggy McIntosh (1990), in her essays ‘White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’, wrote about how she could clearly see the privileges and advantages she had in regards to Whiteness, she had unknowingly grown up with the specific idealism that other races has the disadvantage against Whiteness but she, like all of us, are taught not to ‘see’ this truth even though it has been proven and how visible it is in everyday life. She elaborates on the how privilege is broadly associated certain groups with wealth, economic status, academic success, athletes, and certain religion groups.
“During the beginning stages of film and media, blacks struggled to represent their own stories, beliefs, opinions and identities because whites controlled the entertainment industry and chose what images of blacks to portray’’. When we look into how whiteness has the power in our media we can see the various aspects and roles it plays. When we look back to the debut of the television back to the 1939’s, when segregation was still implemented, it was clear that media entertainment was controlled by white supremacists. To this current day this is still unfortunately still happening but not as obvious as it was back when segregation was implemented. Television shows were made to promote the ‘ideal life’, which often meant ‘The white life’. We look at how television presents a negative view on the minority group, promoting the dominance of whiteness and influencing individuals from a young age in what ‘group’ they belong to. In very early films, such as ‘Birth of a Nation’ from 1915 and the Tarzan series from 1932, African Americans were represented in the films as ‘savage, ignorant, thieves, interlopers and potential rapists’.
Whiteness/White privilege has a lot of influences in society and the youth that only people of colour truly understand. We can look into the mass issue in America right now concerning gun control and police shootings. According to an article written by Tanya Lewis, Police kill around 1,000 people a year where a number of them can be minorities. White individuals have a lower chance of being killed against a black individual. Unarmed police killings have had devastating impacts on communities that prompt surges of grief, anger and fear towards police. People of colour have a higher chance of being pulled over and searched by the cops that white people do.