Just doing some thinking out loud.
A few days ago, I posted this article from CNN.com about whether whites are facing racial oppression. The group of whites specifically discussed was poor whites. A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook where it received a significant amount of scorn for its content. While there is a lot of bull in this article coming from Glenn Beck and the like about white Republicans being an oppressed minority, there are also some points which I do not think should be so easily dismissed.
Poor whites, for example, are not benefited by any of the numerous minority scholarships that are available to nonwhite people. So, if a poor white wants to go to college but cannot afford it, their only hope lies in either getting a grant, a merit scholarship or going to a cheaper community college with less resources and fewer opportunities. This places them at a clear socioeconomic disadvantage as a result of their race than their rich and poor minority peers, one which is only magnified by the institution of affirmative action. Is this not somewhat unjust?
I am not suggesting by any means that poor whites have endured the same social, political, or cultural oppression that other racial minority groups have. I am saying that it is entirely possible that the situation is headed in that direction.
Following years of reinforcement, whites in America have come to see themselves as the norm rather than just another, slightly larger racial entity. Thus, this concept of white privilege has developed. The idea that, since white is considered by whites to be the norm, whites have constructed society in a way that they are the privileged ones. But now there is a growing demographic of whites who live at or below the poverty line. And where are they to turn? Who will be their advocate?
The way I see it, they have no advocate. Among whites, some have the desire to help, but not the means or the power. Those who have the means and the power often fall into the category of those individuals or groups who hold prejudices against the disadvantaged. Or, they fall into such categories as colleges who are so focused on creating racial and ethnic diversity that they let socioeconomic diversity fall by the wayside. Rare is it that a person possesses the desire, means, and power to make significant changes in the social landscape. There is a large reliance on individuals for this. Of course, there also exists a looming caution among whites when it comes to advocating for their own race (when race is the issue) that any self-proclaimed support of the white race is equivalent to white supremacy or the like. And few racial minority groups are likely to advocate for poor whites by sheer fact that they are white, part of the privileged majority.
Here we see a group that is both powerless and friendless, a group that is at a clear disadvantage in society. For poor whites, there is a strong likelihood that they will become severely oppressed as a semi-direct result of their race. I am not proposing that we should expend large amounts of resources in order to remedy this situation, as I am aware that there are much more pressing issues at hand and many other oppressed groups to be addressed. I am only saying that racially oppressed whites DO exist and it is not something to be ignored, just as no other form of oppression should be ignored. Race is, after all, merely a social construct, and those persecuted on such a basis deserve attention and assistance.
NOTE: I refer to whites as “them” throughout this post, while in reality I am white as well. The words were just coming from an academic/conceptual place in my brain so I didn’t feel like saying “we” was quite right. But I am aware that I am included in the white race.
"Black dances are created by the folk, but they are appropriated by whites. This creates a terrible crazy paradox that people in America can’t live without black music or dance. They just don’t want to live with black people."
Today in American Studies we talked about blackface minstrelsy, a form of entertainment popular in the mid to late 1800s. Essentially, white men colored themselves black with a burnt cork and sang and danced on a stage like buffoons in a horridly racist depiction of black people, mostly plantation slaves.
Now I had never really known much about blackface other than what it was, so discussing it more in detail was quite interesting.
The most famous blackface performers were all from the North, meaning that their contact with slaves was minimal. In fact, most of their information about the disposition and behavior of blacks came from their white plantation and slave owning friends. Blackface was one of the first true forms of popular culture, and the songs were spread widely throughout the nation. Plantation owners did not let this fact fall to waste. By telling their blackface friends that slaves were perfectly happy and content with plantation life, they were able spread the idea that slavery wasn’t, in fact a bad thing.
So was born this concept of “blackness,” a concept that was ironically invented by the white man. Blackface performers depicted slaves as goofy and classless. It essentially became a medium of defining and perpetuating the stereotypes of the time, stereotypes which have changed and adapted ever since, eventually creating today’s idea of “blackness,” one which the African American culture has drawn from and utilized.
Now, in an era where being a minority is the cool thing to do for young people, you see white people all over the place “acting black” or “trying to be black.” The tables seem to have turned in the racial structure of our country. A social construct which white people invented as a method of satire and racial discrimination is now one which many white people desire to emulate.
Race is an eternally mysterious concept.