Rethinking White Identity


Roland Dodds

Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular inactive at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

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206 Responses

  1. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    1. I still question what percentage of the general population has encountered publications like Radix Journal (which I never heard about until you mentioned) vs. people who are weirdos like us and spend way too much time on-line talking about politics. I have heard of places like the Occidental Review and VDare though.

    2. I would question what percentage of the non-political junkie people know about (relatively) high profile events like Derbyshire’s firing.

    3. That being said, the Internet is dumb and it is very easy to fall into the racist rabbithole. I’ve mentioned it before but I can post something Jewish on facebook and have the stupid facebook algorithm recommend an article that was deeply anti-Semitic. I believe that the murderer in South Carolina stumbled down the racist wormhole from doing some relatively begin search terms or having begin reasons to search.

    4. The problem is that White is really too all encompassing as a term just like Black or Asian or Hispanic is too encompassing as a term. We all do each other disservices here but I would say this mainly the fault of racism and white people referring to minority populations and cultures as being monolithic.

    4a. That being said, the strangest propaganda I have ever seen was stuff from WWII that was all about how tell Japanese (the enemy) different from Chinese people (the ally).

    5. Notions of race change over time. In the late 19th century, Germans, French, Italian, etc would have see each other as being part of different races.

    6. Americans who came from some group of white ethnic still like to stress that background. Irish, Italian, German, Jewish (which might or might be white depending on whom you ask and when). I know 4th or 5th generation Irish and German Americans who will still say they are Irish or German.Report

    • @saul-degraw

      The problem is that White is really too all encompassing as a term just like Black or Asian or Hispanic is too encompassing as a term. We all do each other disservices here but I would say this mainly the fault of racism and white people referring to minority populations and cultures as being monolithic.

      I like your point #4 a lot. My main difference–or perhaps it’s an agreement with your second sentence?–is that marginalized groups have a more cohesive identity by virtue of being marginalized. It’s not that we’re right to speak of “a” black, or Asian, or Latino identity, just that in a white-dominated society, those identities take on a certain life of their own and obfuscate the differences.Report

  2. Avatar greginak says:

    Interesting take a great subject. I think our heritages do matter. Even if you are connected to The Old Country that doesn’t mean you aren’t influenced by it. It may not be a primary influence but it is there. It matters because how your people got here and how it worked for them matters a lot to how well America worked for you and the advantages you may have had.

    That of course doesn’t lead to how to define whiteness. Us whiteys come from such diverse places, cultures, religions and have had differing experience of America. I’m not sure how possible it is to define generic whiteness without relating to the more toxic elements of White Pride kind of stuff. Race, as is often said, is a vague and ill-defined topic. Well Whiteness in America is as slippery as it gets. Anything that applies to all whites is going to be so milquetoast or generic to be pointless.

    It is interesting to me how people seem to crave a meaning and history to their race or ethnicity or cultural group. I have some pride in my ancestors but its pretty vague. I’m proud of my father’s service in WW2. It always feels to me like individual accomplishments are things to be proud of not defining a self based on a race or ethnicity. But i’m pretty sure i’m weird on that. I have no white guilt but am not blind to all my nifty advantages from being a white guy. I’m sure i could ramble on for a while on this so i’ll keep going. No wait, i’ll stop.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

      One point that Louis Gates made in his five hour documentary on African-American history on PBS was that Africa is divided into many different ethnic groups and these groups are just as passionate about their cultural differences as the different European groups are. The only reason why we had an overall concept of blackness rather than whiteness in Europe and the New World countries is because slavery and the latter system of racism forced all the different African ethnicities that were brought over to the New World into one group. Whites being free were allowed to maintain their separate identities for longer. The creation of a united white identity in the United States and elsewhere is basically a result of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. A lot of White Protestant hate groups found that many White Catholics hated African-Americans just as much as they did and acted pragmatically.

      Asians and to a lesser extent Hispanics had their various subgroups more respected by White Americans but that was because they had greater freedom to maintain them than African-Americans. Even with this freedom, a lot of white people just tie all the Asians and Hispanics together.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I had a Kenyan roommate in college once. He tended to be annoyed when people said he was from Africa, insisting he was from Kenya. And really hated people just randomly calling him African-American, when he didn’t consider himself African and literally *wasn’t* American.

        He also seemed to really dislike Nigerians. To this day, I still know all sorts of random facts about why Kenya is better Nigeria. For example, did you know that Kenya makes more from the oil industry than Nigeria, despite Kenya not *having* any oil and Nigeria having a lot? (I have no idea how many of these facts are actually *true*.)Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to DavidTC says:

          Ah, nationalist preening. It really is universal. On a more fundamental level, most African nations consists of dozens or even hundreds of ethnicities within them. These different ethnic groups are very keen on their culture and history usually.Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

          Other than Nigeria’s film industry, there’s precious little there that’s better than Kenya.
          Kenya is civilized, Nigeria is filled to the brim with corruption and is a worse place to work with/in than Israel. And that’s saying something.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

      Of course some of us have little to no ethnic history to work from. My family did a good job scrubbing it’s past after coming here.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


        My grandmothers were both French. Until I left Maine, I didn’t really realize that there were other ethnic jokes; that was what I heard all the time. And my grandmothers, in that environment, both did their best to blot out their Frenchness and be as AmericanEnglish White as they could be. I have almost no sense of my French heritage; and that’s a very big part of my identity as a white American. It’s sometimes a negative space.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to zic says:

          I remember being surprised when I took a trip to Europe in high school, and heard Irish jokes, and they were exactly the same as the Polish jokes we’d all been telling each other.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Then you aren’t hearing either good irish jokes OR good polish jokes.
            Good jokes contain a decent kernel of truth, or they just aren’t funny.Report

            • Avatar Kim in reply to Kim says:

              And the best Polish joke I know about involves a hamster and a mainframe
              … and is stone cold truth.

              Which, naturally, means I’m not supposed to tell it to anyone, so use your imagination!Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        That in itself is a heritage to at least worth thinking about.Report

      • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I can’t tell you how many people identify themselves as some variation of “Euro-mutt.”Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        Speculating on the Why of that scrubbing has been a mildly amusing activity, because as best we can tell, it was scrubbed before setting foot on the ship.

        What I know is that my maternal side is mostly Belgian and Danish. The paternal side is (as we joke) mostly Indictable. I joke that there must be some Scottish in there since I have a keen appreciation for bagpipe music. My wife is half Norwegian, half Ukrainian, although she identifies heavily as Norwegian because of her maternal grandparents. Bug will most likely know the Norwegian quarter of himself, and not much else.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

        I know the names of three of my four grandparents are English in origin, and I know my father’s family has red hair, thus there is some hypothetical Celtic ancestors in there too. (And also almost everyone in my family originated from various parts of Appalachia, so *duh* there’s some Celt in there.) And we have very white skin and sunburn easily.

        And…that’s it. That’s all we’ve got. English last names. We can trace some of them back to the civil war, but not all of them, we have no idea where they actually came from, and who hell knows who the women were?Report

  3. Avatar CK MacLeod says:

    I think that the image I posted today to the thread on children’s books applies even more strongly to this post, or to broaching this topic of white racial identity in this way:

    That’s the end of the “Very Sad Story with the Lighter.” The little cats try to warn Paulinchen, but she doesn’t listen to them, and, well, you see what happens…Report

  4. Avatar Alan Scott says:

    Well Whiteness in America is as slippery as it gets. Anything that applies to all whites is going to be so milquetoast or generic to be pointless.

    I’m not sure this is actually true, though. I think it’s just hard for white people, as the dominant culture, to identify the bits of culture they experience that have no appeal or relevance to non-whites.

    And it should be noted that “applies to all whites” is the wrong standard. After all, we can readily identify cultural trends that are closely identified with a specific minority, but aren’t necessarily universal among that minority.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Alan Scott says:

      I’m not sure this is actually true, though. I think it’s just hard for white people, as the dominant culture, to identify the bits of culture they experience that have no appeal or relevance to non-whites.

      …well, it’s hard to identify the bits that aren’t actually *middle-class* culture. Or even upper-class culture.

      I mean, being raised by a nanny and then going to a boarding school and then straight into an Ivy league and then taking over your father’s business is a ‘white’ experience that almost no black people participate in, but, uh, it’s hardly ‘white culture’, cause almost no white people do it either.

      The problem with trying to identify ‘cultures’ in America is that the American experience is *vastly* different for different groups of people, and a large portion of that is based on wealth and location.

      ‘Black culture’ is, depending on who you ask, a very specific set of things that mostly apply to poor urban teenagers and young adults (And thus nowhere near relevant to all blacks.) *or* it’s just a bunch of stuff that generally applies to lower-class people, or even *southern* people in general. (Like ‘Soul Food’, which is just frickin southern food!)Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog in reply to Alan Scott says:

      That right there.

      I think this from the OP opens up a great possibility for exploration but then then leaves it unexplored (possibly intentionally?) – what are the things that white folks think of as “normal” or “default” that actually stop applying as soon as you’re not talking to a bunch of white folks?

      Additionally, creating a white identity almost exclusively on anti-racist political grounds is both a response and symptom of a specific problem. Minority activists are right to argue that what is often defined as “normal,” “average,” and “customary” is often indistinguishable from white customs and traditions. This universalizing of European white practices has a perverse effect. Whites should recognize that there are many privileges that come with their place in American society, but also that we have a distinct culture and traditions that are dissimilar from other communities.

      This is all assuming that a white cultural identity is a thing we want to pursue, which I could perhaps be convinced of, but am not now.Report

  5. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    The Left is going to have a rather hard time creating a positive white identity because doing so would go against some of their most deeply cherished beliefs. A lot of leftist thought, especially at the further end of leftism, involves some very dualistic good vs. evil thinking. This is especially true among the more non-intellectual forms. A good chunk of vulgar, in the sense of not sophisticated, social justice talk is “evil white people” against “virtuous third world Marxist feminist people of color.” It is why so many liberals and leftists have a rather hard time coming to terms with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She isn’t really saying anything different about Islam that white feminists said about Christianity but Islam is a coded as “of color” religion and is implicitly virtuous while Christianity is perceived as white and can be criticized.

    To a lot of the dumber or even not so dumb leftists, there is simply nothing good about “white” culture at all. It either had it’s day or is simply the source of all evil and exploitative to the max.Report

  6. Avatar North says:

    This strikes me as too broad and amorphous a project to be feasible. A white culture? White as in all America white or white as in all the world’s whites? It strikes me as definitionally broken right out the gate. If we look at pre-existing “white” cultures from, say, the old world the strongest ones come from the smaller and tighter knit geographical regions. The US is a massive populous sprawling country; it’s a terrible candidate for a single unifying racial identity.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    In addition to Dolezal, there’s a new… erm… what’s the term we use for this? Self-identified African-American who, for whatever reason, seems to have been born to a couple of phenotypically White People?

    Shaun King is at the current center of the latest… I don’t know what the term for this would be.

    He’s apparently also the winner of one of Oprah Winfrey’s Scholarships that were set aside for African-American men (which changes the various dynamics of this particular… I don’t know what the term for this would be).Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      You should consider your sources.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Let me add: it may be the case that he’s white, but right now, that’s not clear. The reporting was done by a well known racist blogger, whose work was picked up by right wing outlets. CNN now has a story, but it’s unconfirmed. This is not the Dolezal situation, where there was no doubt. So it’s probably best to tread carefully.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

          Fair enough. Allow me to say that “there is apparently controversy over whether or not this person who self-identifies as bi-racial was born to phenotypically white people”.

          We’re still in the “Are you biracial or not???” “How dare you!” phase of the controversy.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

            Also, the school denies that the scholarship is race-based.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

              Oh, well if the scholarship is not set aside for African-Americans, no harm done.

              It’s just a case of racists saying a prominent biracial activist is actually white and there’s nothing at stake otherwise.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                I don’t know whether he’s biracial. He’s very clearly claimed that he is, and he’s built a biography around that, but I don’t know, and no one who doesn’t know him personally does (the right wing outlets doing the reporting certainly don’t, and the “family member” who talked to Don Lemon is an unknown). If it turns out that he’s been lying about himself all this time, I would not be at all surprised, as I’ve known for some time that when it comes to his own life and self-promotion, he’s not a straight shooter. In fact, I suspect a lot of the people who knew of him before August 2014 recognized this (he’s an opportunistic minister and self-help guru/life coach hack). In the wake of the Brown murder, when he began to rise to prominence outside of a narrow circle, the first people to go after him weren’t white supremacist right wing bloggers and news outlets, but other somewhat prominent voices on Black Twitter. And what they said was pretty damning.

                But again, the sources of these charges, which have been in the air for months (I remember first hearing them in the Spring, I believe) are some horrible people, with little interest in the truth, and every interest in undermining a movement against police violence. So go to Costco, buy the biggest package of salt that you can find, and take what they say with every grain in it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                It seems to not be in dispute that racists think that they can harm a biracial activist by pointing out that he’s white.

                Are they correct in thinking this?Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                It will certainly harm him in the eyes of many white people, who are of course itching for some reason to ignore him. Will it harm him in the eyes of black people? I don’t know. I suspect that, given the work he’s done in the last year, it won’t be a big deal, not even on the Dolezal level for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that he’s doing very visible good work, and for most people, that’s what matters.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                Well, if it won’t harm him among those on his side but only among those who hate him already and consider him an enemy, then these accusations (if true) are, at best, silly.

                It seems like a conclusion to reach from this is that he must be bi-racial.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Shaun King is pointing out that he will not give the story behind his origin out of respect for his mother.

                Which is fair enough.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                We now know the person listed as his father on his birth certificate is not his biological father, and at least one reporter has confirmed that his biological father is black.

                If the right wing assholes were interested in truth, they’d have done the digging themselves before publishing a single word. To be honest, I’m disgusted that racist nonsense made its way here.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Roland Dodds says:

                I’ve followed him on Twitter for over a year now. I wouldn’t buy his book, and I would not be surprised to learn that his biography is less than accurate (though there is, as yet, no real reason to think that, and while the police report lists one assailant, witnesses have confirmed his version of his assault in high school), bit his work over the last year has been real, and invaluable. Fuck the assholes who can’t handle a movement that might help black people, and feel the need to attack anyone associated with it.Report

              • Avatar notme in reply to Chris says:

                Was that repoter also able to verify his claim that he was the victim of a hate crime when he was allegedly beaten by a mob of whites?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                I’m not sure that it’s necessarily “racist nonsense” any more than questions about Dolezal’s origins were racist in origin.

                My assumption was that we were, once again, seeing a phenomenon where there were benefits (tangible or intangible) for white people to try to pass as black people who could pass for white.

                And *THAT* is an interesting development.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                What makes it racist nonsense is not the content of the story, but the reporting of it. Unlike the Dolezal case, in which a reporter had done a great deal of investigating, so that he was reasonably sure before he confronted her, which he did before reporting the information, in this case a well-known racist blogged some incomplete information and her conclusions, two right wing entertainment sites (DC and Breitbart) ran with her info and conclusions, and a smear campaign began, making it all the way to Don Lemon and here in the 24 hours it took real journalists to do real reporting and find out that it was a smear campaign.

                That’s the racist shit.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                Which brings us to another milestone that seems a surprising place to be: racists are now accusing people of not being black as an attack on them and their credibility.

                Personal Racism has evolved a lot. Structural racism has evolved a lot.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yeah, this isn’t new. This is as old as old gets.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                First off, let’s stop using the term “accuse”. It was wrong when it was used in relation to sexual orientation and it is wrong to use it in relation to race. If you want to accuse him of lying, accuse him of lying. But don’t accuse people of being Black or white or gay or whatever.

                More to the point, there is nothing new, @jaybird , about racists using any weapon they have to further racism.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Is it old, though? Plessy v. Ferguson was about how Mr. Plessy, a man who had *ONE* great-grandparent (one-eighth) who was of African descent was considered “black”.

                Now the attack is going against someone whose father was black and the argument is that, naw, they’re white.

                This is a new application of the so-called “one drop rule”.

                As for the “any weapon”, they’re using calling someone white as a weapon to further racism. They’re pointing out that a prominent BLM activist who reports on such things as police violence has less credibility because he had two white parents.

                By implication from this argument, a truly mixed race person would have a lot more authenticity when speaking about police violence!

                While it’s true that haters will hate, they’ve effectively added credibility to huge numbers of voices in this debate and (now that King has argued and effectively demonstrated his heritage) underlined King’s own!

                This doesn’t feel “old” to me. This feels like something new.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well, that assumes a principled consistency. The biracial person wouldn’t be as legit as the Black guy. And the Black guy is just an opportunist. Or race baiter. Or whatever else is convenient.

                It is racism, any way you cut it. “Someone undermining white supremacy? We must stop them.”

                Debating how “new” this manifestation is seems like a distraction. And it is evidence of anything but progress.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Oh, well. Let me avoid the criticism of this being a distraction by saying that Black Lives Matter and we need to do more to address Police Violence by implementing police cameras on every single officer out there in the field and making it illegal for them to do so much as sneeze without the camera having been turned on.

                Police who shot and killed Jerame Reid were not charged by a grand jury.

                Mansur Ball-Bey was shot and killed by the police after, police claim, he pulled a gun on them. The police, of course, were not wearing police cameras. This happened in Saint Louis.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Good. Saying things is a wonderful start.Report

              • Avatar notme in reply to Jaybird says:

                Racism is now whatever the left wants it to be so they can get as much political mileage out of it as possible.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                So long as Breitbart can attack King by embarrassing his mother, they can call it a good day’s work.Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

            By the way, as I believe I said here when King was first mentioned a year ago, I believe King is something of snake oil salesman, though as a disseminater of information on social media over the last year he has been indispensable, and it’s quite clear why right wing folks are so keen to tear him down. He, like Deray and some of the other more visible activists who’ve become very visible in the wake of the Michael Brown murder, he’s been the target of an unrelenting campaign of character assassination and threats for a year now. Regardless of what I think of him personally, the abuse he’s suffered is indefensible.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

              I didn’t know anything about Shaun King before yesterday.

              What I find interesting about this is that it seems to be another Dolezal Incident.

              If it is, then I might find myself revising what the Dolezal Incident indicated at the time (my final conclusion was that she was irrational and it manifested itself in that particularly odd way… but my tentative conclusion prior to that was that she was being rational).

              Of course, even if it turns out to be the case that his parents were phenotypically white, it’s not a trend until a third person doing it shows up.Report

              • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird @chris I had never heard of Shaun King before today either. What seems rather reprehensible in his case (if it is true he fabricated his black identity) is that he took a coveted scholarship. The foundation was quick to note that the scholarship is not awarded based on race, but obviously it is to benefit a specific group of people that have historically not entered the university in large numbers. Much like black universities do not reject a student if they wish to attend regardless of their race, clearly they are there to support a community that has been underprivileged.

                If it is true he lied to get said scholarship, I would find that pretty damning.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Roland Dodds says:

                Roland, it’s pretty evident at this point that the accusations that King is not mixed race are completely unfounded and made with the intention of discrediting him.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yes, like the accusation that Deray is a highly paid professional protester. This one is a combo of the race traitor accusation and the belief that those who talk about racism are lying and/or seeking benefits for themselves. It is old.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Chris says:

                highly paid professional protester

                There’s this weird liberal purity test inbuilt; and it’s one that gives liberalism a bad name and makes it not pass the sniff test to a lot of people.

                There is nothing wrong with being highly-paid; the presumption is that we ought pay people for doing good work, no? Yet that doesn’t run over to social justice, and so we get to cast aspersion by hinting at someone’s speaking fees, etc., without actually pointing out wrong doing. It’s a purity test I don’t like, it’s one that helps the seeds of mistrust sown by Limbaugh take root and contribute to our brainwashing. It also fosters lefty brainwashing; GMO. Vaccines.

                ETA: my recent OTC post on Lawyers finding work in police brutality cases was, I think, a response to this liberal purity test.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

                The “highly paid protester” (he’s not) criticism comes from the “right,” not the “left.” It’s part of the campaign to undermine BLM by undermining its most visible activists, like King and Deray.

                The corollary to the “highly paid professional protester” criticism is that he/they are highly paid by someone evil like George Soros or some other bogeyman.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Chris says:

                Keep watching; I’m confident you’ll see the taint of the avarice of a professional community organizer showing up in liberal tweets.

                If it doesn’t happen, I’ll owe you a beer.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

                Perhaps, as people want their activists to to it out of a passion for the cause, and doing it for pay implies at least the possibility of disingenuousness. This, certainly, is what the “right” folks are getting at: he doesn’t really care about black lives, he’s just a professional shit-stirrer.

                Of course, BLM activism is unlikely to be a lucrative profession anytime soon, so I’m not terribly worried.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Chris says:

                I’m more worried about the damages of applying the purity test than I am concerned about some activist actually flunking it.

                I do think it’s a yardstick; that a lot of conservatives see this and go after it in liberals because it’s they swim in a sea of highly paid activists.

                There are some harmonics going back and fourth; some call and response.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

                I don’t know where the purity tests will come from. I mean, there has already been some intra-movement bickering related to who is actually a part of #BlackLivesMatter, an organization, and who is part of Black Lives Matter, a movement (this flared up a bit this week, related to access to certain politicians), but I haven’t seen any hints of impending purity testing behavior. Have you seen anything in this movement specifically that would make you think it’s going to be a problem?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                I suspect that there is the assumption that BLM is itself being wielded as a purity test of sorts. My evidence for this are the Bernie events being followed by “Why aren’t they doing this to Hillary!!!!????” questions.

                That question makes sense in the context of “these purity tests need to be applied to everybody!” (and much less so in the context of “The BLM people have their own goals, agendas, and issues and they want to make their voices heard on any stage that they can get on and they’re trying to change the debate”).Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to zic says:

                That’s not really my cup of tea, with existing the BSDI, but my side is well-intentioned while they’re just evil bit, or the pretend attempts to understand motivations and why they hate BLM. But I do hope this case shows once and for all that internet mobs and attempts to silence speech we don’t line are not “left” things, but internet and human things. Hope, not believe.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                @jaybird the new thing I saw today, consistent with the conservative position that the white male is persecuted in today’s world, is “black privilege.” Basically, King pretended to be black so he could get benefits, like a free education, associated with being black.

                Welcome to the new racism, same as the old racism. Specifically, this is not racism without racists, whatever the hell that is. This is racism with a whole lot of racists.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                I’d say that the intangible benefits were much more under attack than the tangible ones. Stuff like “authenticity” and whatnot. The tangible benefits (e.g., the scholarship) were small potatoes compared to the, for lack of a better term, moral authority.

                I think that “Black privilege” is an attempt of people who only know of White privilege to wrap their heads around concepts like the moral authority and authenticity that is seen as coming from being oppressed/the underdog.

                The attempt to say that King was really white was more than just calling him a race traitor (though I’m sure that that was very much in there) but also an attempt to remove his moral authority.Report

            • Avatar notme in reply to Chris says:

              Who murdered Michael Brown? I thought that question had been settled?

              Why is heaping scorn on King indefensible? He set himself up for it.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      Who cares what color he is? Anybody that was third-string behind both Brad and Rob Johnson isn’t worth discussing.Report

  8. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Yeah I have too many questions about what a white American culture means?

    Is it Southern? Northern? Midwestern? Western? Southwest? or Northwest? Is it rural? suburban? urban? Is it based on popular culture or high-culture? middlebrow?

    How do you differentiate between the Italian-Catholic from Brooklyn and a Lutheran of Swedish heritage from a small town in Minnesota (old joke: Diversity in Minnesota is when a Swede marries a Norwegian) or a Scots-Irish Baptist from West Virginia?

    Is semi-Bohemian New York Jewish culture part of white culture?

    How do you do deal with all the parts of white culture that have their origins in African-American culture? We see rock music (in all its forms from heavy metal to twee indie rock) right now as being very white. But really almost all popular American music can trace itself back to African-American origins and some Jewish origins because marginalized communities found that show business/entertainment was a field they could break into.Report

    • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      What @saul-degraw said.

      I grew up in Wisconsin and have both a state and regional identity from that experience. This is, in a lot of ways, a kind of white identity: first because Wisconsin is heavily white and second because the distinctive things about it tend to be drawn from northern European immigrant traditions. But it remains a regional identity, and I don’t really have any interest in finding a common white identity with people who don’t have ice fishing and deep-fried perch on Fridays as cultural touchstones. What would be the point?Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Autolukos says:

        How about lutefisk?Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to North says:

          What is it with you people & lutefisk?Report

        • Avatar Autolukos in reply to North says:

          That’s what the heathens in Minnesota eat. I’ll be dead before you catch me eating that or their blasphemous hotdish.Report

          • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Autolukos says:

            Hold on now, wait a minute here. I’m with you on the lutefisk, but not all hotidsh is created equal. Some are quite tasty.Report

            • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              It’s called casserole, dammit.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Autolukos says:

                Next thing you’re going to tell me it’s not duck duck grey-duck and the knives are going to come out. On behalf of my adopted state I will cut you so bad you’ll wish I didn’t cut you so bad!Report

              • Avatar gingergene in reply to North says:

                Duck-duck-grey duck! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong. It’s goose and you know it. I don’t believe for a second that you will actually harm me: you’re a Canadian-Minnesotan. The worst offense you could actually bring yourself to commit is to bump into me and then refuse to say “sore-y”.

                Anyway, we should gang up on the weirdos from Wisconsin, drinking out of bubblers and playing sheepshead instead of a proper card game like euchre.Report

              • Avatar Autolukos in reply to gingergene says:

                Well, we also play euchre.

                True story, I once shocked a Bavarian family by mentioning that I knew sheepshead.Report

              • Avatar gingergene in reply to Autolukos says:

                I am continually frustrated in finding card game players in the South. They don’t know euchre, or pinochle, or 500, or Pedro, or cribbage, or even damn Rummy. I could maybe scare up a game of go-fish, but I’d probably have to teach at least one of them how to play.

                I mean, how the hell do they pass the time all winter… oh, right, if it falls on the weekend, they go outside.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to gingergene says:

                *shakes head*

                You’re all a bunch of damn yankees.

                And the cards games are either poker, or bridge if you’re an old lady.

                And we do know how to play go-fish, we played it in our church youth groups, so there! And we also learned spades, so ha!

                And we don’t go outside during winter, that’s crazy talk. We mostly sit at home and complain because the power went out (Because apparently the power companies actually trimming the trees would be crazy.), and try to figure out how to operate the heater before we realize it’s out of kerosene and we don’t know what gas station sells that, and also we never did get our chimney cleaned, did we, so we’ll just have to live with the house slowly dropping to 50 degrees overnight.

                Some brave souls do go out, though, and participate in our yearly ‘drive off the road and into other cars because we don’t understand how ice works’ competition.

                Then the next day all the ice starts melting and the power comes back on, and we all sit around on the porch and reminisce about the blizzard of 20xx.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

                And in the summer you complain about the power going out because the thunderstorms down south are wicked bad.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to gingergene says:

                In all honesty I also consider it Goose as does the entire world outside of Minnesota but maybe that simply means Minnesotans are the chosen people.
                You should tread carefully though, I may be living in Minnesotan but I’m Atlantic Canadian on one side, virtually pirate blood, and New Yorker on my American side, rum running bandits one an all. So beneath my polite shell of Minnesotan nice seethes a deadly well of viscous sarcasm waiting to be unleashed. Yar!

                I am very happy that I have no idea what euchre or a Bubbler is. On account of my not being from Wisconsin. Also Scott Walker isn’t my Governor so Ha HA!Report

              • Avatar gingergene in reply to North says:

                If you don’t know what euchre is, you haven’t fully completed your midwest transition. Sheepshead is kinda like if euchre and Pedro had a baby. And @davidtc , a lot of Wisconsin old ladies play it for money, so in that sense it’s also kinda like bridge and poker had a baby. A bubbler is what Wisconsin weirdos (but I repeat myself) call water fountains. I don’t know why, I guess because “grey duck” was already taken.

                I am starting to fear that you somehow got the impression I am one of them- I am originally from Michigan, and the closest I’ve ever lived to Wisconsin is the several years I lived in the U.P. (admittedly, yoopers sometimes still seem to question the validity of the Toledo deal).

                And as for Scott Walker- Ha! Michigan’s governor is…shit, it’s Rick Snyder. Oh well, at least we can always point out our hometowns on our hands.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to gingergene says:

                Oh sweet agnostic Jesus, the upper Peninsula!? I will not repeat the joke I have heard about that particular region.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to gingergene says:

                Sheepshead is kinda like if euchre and Pedro had a baby.

                See, at this point you’re just speaking gibberish. How the heck do you guys have so many card games?

                Yeah, yeah, you get stuck in your houses during winter. But we get stuck in our houses (Or at least somewhere with AC) during the summer, and *we* didn’t start making up an absurd amount of card games.

                Currently we just watch Netflix and insult people who say ‘Hotlanta’ on Facebook, but I’m sure we used to do other things before computers. (Drink ice cream sodas? Solve Rubix Cubes? Wax our mustaches? Segregate ourselves based on skin color?)

                A bubbler is what Wisconsin weirdos (but I repeat myself) call water fountains.

                Here in Georgia, a bubbler is what we call mountain springs.

                Well, no, it’s not. I just made that up. But I bet people believed that.

                Why would water fountains, of all things, need a different name? I mean, okay, ‘drinking fountains’ that works too, that’s fine(1), but bubblers? Also, if they’re *bubbling*, there’s air in your water, something’s wrong, should have that looked at.

                (A bubbler, more seriously, is also a type of bong.)

                1) You can make jokes both way. A water fountain is confusingly also those pieces of art you *can’t* drink out of, whereas a drinking fountain could, in theory, be of something besides water. Really, to avoid confusion, it should be a ‘drinking water fountain’.Report

              • Avatar Autolukos in reply to DavidTC says:

                We call those other fountains “ice sculptures”Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

                Originally, those artsy “water fountains” were places to drink out of.
                In Rome, where they were part of the public water systemReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Autolukos says:

                Well, yes, technically, but a very specific casserole.

                You know, with tater tots.

                (PS I grew up between Sheboygan & Fond du Lac)Report

              • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I grew up in the big city (Oshkosh)Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Autolukos says:

                Damn near neighbors!

                I’m hoping to take my son to the EAA next year, he’s old enough that planes are just ‘OMG AWESOME!’Report

              • Avatar Autolukos in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                May he never lose that reaction 🙂Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Autolukos says:

                No kidding. It’s no fun for me to stand there going ‘OMG! AWESOME!’ all by myself.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to Autolukos says:

                I went to an air show in Oshkosh once. The mid-to-late 80s, I think. I assumed everyone there would be wearing overalls.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to Chris says:

                I don’t know about overalls, but the trucks are hardcore.Report

              • Avatar aarondavid in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The shear amount of overbite in this thread is awesome!Report

            • Avatar North in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Now don’t be hasty Oscar, maybe you just haven’t had it prepared properly? Did you have it with potatoes? How many sticks of butter on the potatoes? Was it with or without white sauce? Did it tarnish your silverware?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to North says:

                It’s fish, soaked in lye.

                Let me say that again, just in case it was missed.

                Fish, soaked in CAUSTIC lye. It is, as my wife’s grandma used to say, peasant food. The lye was not a flavoring, like a hint of vinegar, it was a preservative, and applied generously so the fish would keep. It’s what you ate when all the other food was gone or bad. It’s what you choked down with enough aquavit to kill the tastebuds & gag reflex.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Well yes I am keenly aware of this Oscar, I grew up in Nova Scotia so every week you’d go out on the porch and chip a herring out of the salt bucket (and you weren’t chipping ice). Compared to that lutefisk is only a slight step higher in the preservative chain and the lye dissolves all the bones which is more than I can say for herring.Report

              • Avatar gingergene in reply to North says:

                True story: Every. damn. time. I go to the grocery store, I find myself in the canned goods aisle wondering if I need more cream-of* soup. I must have at least a dozen cans of it, proving that you can leave the midwest, but it never quite leaves you.

                *It doesn’t really matter what it’s cream-of. Celery. Mushroom. Chicken. Mushroom and Chicken. When you’re going to add them to sour cream (shut up) and then cover them in either a metric ton of cheese or an entire box of Ritz crackers soaked in a pound of butter, the minscule specs of what was “creamed” are completely irrelevant.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon in reply to gingergene says:

                Damn I’m getting homesick…Report

              • Avatar North in reply to gingergene says:

                Absolutely! I have completely embraced the Minnesotan love of “Cream of” soups. Hot Dish? Pasta Sauce? Stir Fry? Toss a can of cream of X soup in and that’ll stretch it out nicely.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to North says:

                I was a kid in NW Iowa and was raised more-or-less Methodist. As they say, if you simply assume that there will be a covered dish potluck after the religious observation, you might be a Methodist.

                I first realized that this was actually a stereotype when I read Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novel Some Buried Caesar, where the gourmand Wolfe eats chicken fricassee and dumplings repeatedly, under what would otherwise be intolerable conditions, at the Methodist tent.Report

              • Avatar zic in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @michael-cain do you still have family/connections there?

                Tuesday, Diane Rehm did a segment on Criminal Justice Reform (no transcript available yet). At the end, there’s a discussion about Iowa, which apparently has the highest rate of racial disparity in incarceration. I’ve been looking for data on that; not much that’s obvious, other than 8% greater rate of a black persons going to jail for drugs than a white despite the same drug use rates. But the experts on the show seemed, from what I gathered, to think there were other outlier disparities going on, so I’ve been waiting on the transcript to save the pain of listening twice.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to zic says:

                We were “outsiders” so to speak, there because of my dad’s job, no real relatives in the area. My Iowa ancestry was from down by the Missouri border, almost straight UK by heritage (I vaguely recall conversations with my Great Aunt Martha, from Liverpool; no one told me that I shouldn’t be able to handle Liverpudlian, so we got along fine). NW Iowa’s population at the time — late 1950s, 1960s — was still largely derived from the northern route transcontinental railroad recruiting Scandinavians. Iowa was settled from SE to NW over a surprisingly long period of time. In school, I was the short dark kid with the funny name — the blond viking girls were all bigger than me. God help you if you mixed up the Petersens and Petersons. Seven different kinds of Lutheran church.Report

              • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Cain says:


                Strassberg and Adler strain of Methodism?Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

          Smoked salmon, aka lox, is more delicious than lutefisk and also appears in more European cultures. Therefore, it is a greater part of white culture.Report

      • And you know what they say about girls from Wisconsin. (Why do you think it’s called Ashely Madison?)Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      @saul-degraw “Yeah I have too many questions about what a white American culture means?” As do I. Many people in this thread seem to think regional identity is a better starting place, but I don’t think it helps solve the issue addressed in the essay. As I don’t have a set of boxes to check that classifies one “white,” I am interested to see how others define that.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Roland Dodds says:


        People tend to be tribal. This connected to ohur evolution and ancient parts of our brains. It was probably a survival tactic that is not necessarily relevant anymore but we also divide our tribes to be as small(ish) as possible. Look at how many cities, it also mattered what neighborhood you came from.

        The reason regionalism seems important is that it defines our civic stuff we did as kids and/or as adults. I don’t know anything that @autolukos is talking about. The civic stuff is different. So regionalism and ethnicity still matter and this is partially why I don’t think Radix is going to turn everyone right wing.Report

      • I’ll argue that regionalism answers some of the concerns in the OP.

        My favorite example currently is California [1]. There’s a perception outside the state of the laid-back Californian, be it someone in their Marin County hot tub with a glass of white wine or surfers or potheads or valley girls or OT’s very own Burt Likko, who has a hell of a stressful job and still comes across as laid back. While there’s some truth to that external view, it completely misses the California that I see as a regular business visitor over the years: smarts, and energy, and the whole “we can fix our problems” vibe. California dealt with its initial water problems, its air problems, and has led much of the rest of the country during the process. Non-Californians write pieces about the disaster of the current drought; but at least IMO, there’s no place in the country better suited to making whatever changes are necessary to deal with the problem. There’s a regional identity that transcends many of the ethnic divisions [2].

        [1] Full disclosure. I have a California birth certificate. Over the decades, there have been at least a half-dozen times when I could have ended up in California, quite happily I think, but the circumstances just never quite worked out that way.

        [2] Here at OT, Saul Degraw and LeeEsq are New York suburb Jewish brothers. I enjoy reading their comments a lot, and have the impression that Lee is rapidly becoming Californian in a way that Saul is not.Report

  9. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    Second, I believe there is a longing for an identity among many white Americans that is not satisfied merely by being American.

    You should expand on the different directions this might take. Certainly one of them is geographic: people who think of themselves as Southerners, or New Englanders, or Texans, or Californians. People have been successful enough at this that there are stereotypes of those outside of the regions.Report

    • I believe there is a longing for an identity among many white Americans that is not satisfied merely by being American.

      I think there always has been. I see it manifest in white folks getting all ethnic amongst themselves: the professional Irishman, for example; you all know one. He’s not actually Irish in the sense that he’s an Irish citizen or has extensive personal contact with people and things in Ireland like having gone to college there. He’s just really into having Irish heritage. He has a name that begins with “Mc”, enjoys drinking Guinness beer and waxing rhapsodic about how it doesn’t travel well very far away from the brewery in Dublin, he eats more than his share of corned beef sandwiches, roots for Notre Dame on Saturdays and the Boston Celtics during basketball season, claims to have thought “Riverdance” was extraordinary entertainment, and festoons his house with paper and plastic shamrocks every March. Other than that, basically an American white dude.

      Mutatis mutandis with the white guy who’s really into having Italian heritage, or German, or whatever other tribe from Europe the unremarkably white unremarkably American guy claims ancestry from. I had a college professor once who was really into being Frisian, for instance. Wouldn’t shut up about surviving the Romans and collecting these family-crest decorated spoons which were somehow special in that portion of the Netherlands, and was very particular that his ancestral homeland was not part of Holland, although both were Dutch, because Holland is only a part of the Netherlands, you see.

      Very slightly more interesting than being just a generic white guy, I guess, but I’m here to tell you that the spoon talk got really boring, really fast.Report

      • Until I moved to Big City, I didn’t have a lot of encounters with the “white ethnics.” Not no encounters, but when I moved here, I found the identities a lot more….enduring? militant? exclusionary?….than I had witnessed elsewhere.Report

  10. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Man, I really want to see what JHG thinks about this post.Report

  11. Avatar zic says:

    Here’s how Sarah Posner’s thinking about white identity, Trump style.

    I would say that what she identifies as schisms, from her perspective as a believer, are mostly examples of white cultures, plural, not White Culture™. As are my own northeastern liberal creds.

    But it’s hard to see when it’s the water you swim in; it’s the norm.Report

  12. Avatar Chris says:

    As with most things, white is defined less by its positive content than its negative (that is, how it is different from other things). White is contrasted with “black,” and sometimes with “Asian” or “Hispanic” (even if, at others, “Hispanic” can be a type of whiteness) or “Middle Eastern” or whatever. What makes this interesting is, then as much what it lumps together to create defining differences as what it lumps together as white. “Black” becomes a monolith, for example, encompassing “African Americans,” that is primarily people descended from African slaves in the United States, people from the Caribbean (that is, mostly people descended from African slaves in the Caribbean), people from South America (mostly people descended from African slaves in South America), people from sub-Saharan Africa, people of sub-Saharan African descent from Europe, etc. Hence the story of Americans referring to French people of African-descent as “African Americans,” for example.Report

  13. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    There is no positive part of white American identity that isn’t wrapped up in the overall American identity, which should be open to all American’s of any color or creed. I mean, even the stalwarts part of 50’s American culture – the VFW, the Kiwanis Club, etc. are all open to black, hispanic, and other peoples.

    The only reason that something like Flemish culture seems like white culture is because 99% of the countries population has been white in its history. In 50 years, French or English or Italian culture will seem a lot less white due to immigration.Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

      @jesse-ewiak I am not sure that is true, and I am trying to get away from universalizing elements of white culture, and stating that they can simply belong to anyone who simply embraces them. Obviously, the clubs and organizations you listed are pluralistic groups that accept membership from anyone, but I would’t go as far as saying everything good about the white identity can simply be incorporated.

      I love Jazz and other aspects of black society and culture, but I don’t think I can simply claim them to be my own.Report

  14. Avatar LTL FTC says:

    Cultures are bound together by origin stories. African-American culture has a clear one, as does Judiasm. White American culture, to the extent there is one, is limited to when its various component groups became American, and later became considered mainstream whites. It’s too post-literacy and post-media to be mythologized into something more powerful than the more granular collection-of-white-ethnics conception we have now.

    You see over and over again that it’s a very hard sell to tell a Greek person whose family showed up on U.S. shores in 1902 that their origin story includes anything to do with the trans-Atlantic slave trade. That’s because it doesn’t, and it’s achingly transparent that any efforts to make it so are in the service of someone else’s agenda.

    Adopting a cultural narrative for the expressed purpose of making those who fall under its umbrella more thoroughly imbued with guilt and shame will never happen. Ever.Report

    • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to LTL FTC says:

      @ltl-ftc “it’s achingly transparent that any efforts to make it so are in the service of someone else’s agenda.” Very good point. It is this type of thing I am hoping to combat. It is especially pernicious among whites who have not thought through their identity (and subsequent benefits/detriments to that identity in our society) which results in them being easily kowtowed.Report

      • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Roland Dodds says:

        I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at w/r/t being kowtowed. Are they kowtowed by white guilt a la Tim Wise or by white supremacy like the websites you mention?Report

        • Avatar Roland Dodds in reply to LTL FTC says:

          Either or, depending on their political bent or sphere or influence.Report

          • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Roland Dodds says:

            In that case, I’d have to disagree, or at least request some clarification.

            It’s easier to get kowtowed in an identity politics situation by someone of your own identity if you have a strong connection to that identity. Identity can’t be wielded as a weapon unless people care about it. That’s one reason why white identity politics is so fringe-y in the US.

            Now if you’re talking about whites getting kowtowed by African-Americans, it’s a bit of a different story. You’re not talking about a lot of people here, just some assorted radical leftist hangers-on who are really into the guilt and the penance and at least one politician who just wants to regain access to his own microphone.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to LTL FTC says:

      You mean because no white person in the 20th Century ever benefitted from preferential access to education, jobs, credit, or housing?Report

      • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        That’s redefining culture as “a group of people who have in common the fact that they currently benefit or suffer from a particular sociopolitical circumstances,” which seems like … a fairly radical redefinition to say the least.Report

  15. Avatar veronica d says:

    Hi, late to the party here.

    So, a neat thing happened when I finally came out as transsexual. All of a sudden, late in my life, I had access to a genuine resistance culture. Actually, I had access to several resistance cultures, including elements of gay culture, elements of cross-dressing culture, various bits of “glam” culture, insofar as it survives, elements of modern urban queer culture, and finally this weird cluster of neuro-diverse, gender-varient “weird nerds” who mostly watch anime, cuddle, and pretend to be cats.

    Myself, I kinda bounce around between the spaces, since they all have value, but the point is, I legitimately belong in each of them, insofar as I want to.

    That’s a big fucking deal.

    There is a thing that contemporary America white culture can not be: it cannot be a resistance culture. It cannot be a subculture. It cannot stand outside.

    It cannot because of the basic logic of social oppression. Racism is a real thing. It is broad and structural. Heterosexism and cissexism are likewise. (These are fancy terms for “homophobia” and “transphobia” that avoid the annoying debate about what “phobia” means, as if we didn’t know.) To form a resistance culture, you must have something to resist.

    It is obvious to the point of boredom to point out that privileged white people hunger for the “connection” that exists in a resistance culture. It’s is why white kids get into hip-hop and throw around the n-word. It’s why Madonna felt so brilliant making Vogue, when in fact she was packaging up and selling a culture she did not belong to.

    Such behavior is pretentious in obvious ways. I don’t mind mocking people who do this shit.

    You’ll notice that white racists trying to build a “white identity” are doing it under the terms of a resistance culture, by which I mean, that is their rhetoric.

    They’re fucking jackasses. But whatever.

    The thing about a resistance culture is this: it has a cause. It has a reason for existing.

    If white racism disappears for a few generations, enough that the social and economic effects just kinda wash out, then “American black identity” will cease to have a reason. If everyone stops being weird around gay and trans people, then our communities will go away.

    Which actually, for affluent gay urban men, their culture is beginning to evaporate. You can see it playing out. For example, these days my local Pride parade is really a big “gay themed” event where straight liberals can celebrate their own tolerance.

    On the whole, this is probably good. But on the other hand, we remaining queers, who are not affluent gay urban men — we are losing something.

    Which is to say, I like cis-het people fine. But we have a resistance culture for a reason, and you cannot be part of it. You can visit, but that ain’t the same.

    Anyway, white culture — it is the dominant culture. It feels like an absence because it is unmarked.

    Do you want it to become marked? Be careful what you wish for.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to veronica d says:

      Awesome comment, @veronica-d

      Very astute, too.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to veronica d says:

      Yeah gay culture is dissolving with enormous speed. So many gay specific stores and the like closed up shop because you can get everything they sold on Amazon or at any normal big box store. Did you ever read Andrew Sullivan’s End of Gay Culture article?
      Even the bars are enormously full of straight ladies which is fine of course, someone has to buy all that booze.

      One this you can say for the south, their gay institutions are still chugging along strongly. That probably says something no so nice about the south at the same time.Report

      • Avatar Jon Rowe in reply to North says:

        If I remember Bruce Bawer’s thesis, he wanted to see gay culture ended. If being gay truly is like being left handed, seeing 2 men or 2 women in a restaurant, bar, neighborhood holding hands, would be entirely UN-noticable. Therefore, there would be no need for gay ghettos.

        In some places, we may be approaching this. But in many others, we aren’t close.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to North says:

        Ah yes, the women at gay bars.

        Which, yikes. My g/f used to work at a local drag bar, and the bachelorettes! OMG! Drunk basic bitches with no concept of boundaries.

        This may come as a surprise, but just cuz you’re a drunk straight woman does not mean you get to grab my breasts. Sorry.

        Don’t even get me started!Report

        • Avatar North in reply to veronica d says:

          I’ve had some odd experiences too. Girls coming up, introducing themselves and offering to let me buy them a drink. I’m like “Uh why?” and they just don’t understand. All the “hags” looking for a special gay friend to be besties with forever or until 4 am, whichever comes first. And every now and then the straight guys beginning to migrate in looking for the straight girls; mostly they’re the new not-gay-but-entirely-comfortable-around-gay-guys breed of straight guy (about who’s feet hordes of gay guys futilely writhe in miserable smitten agony) or hilariously the ones who aren’t okay with gays and are really uncomfortable but.. the chicks.

          But ultimately it’s how the movement won right? Drawing in the non-gays, making them feel welcome and turning them into allies. So they’re kindof dumb insensitive dolts, so are the homos when they’re drunk. God(ess?) bless the lot of em.Report

          • Avatar veronica d in reply to North says:

            @north — Ha! The “gay best friend” thing. So here’s the scenario. Me sitting at the bar. Tiny, adorable straight girl wanting a new gay best friend. Starts talking to me.

            Soon comes that moment where I mention my girlfriend.

            You have a girlfriend?”

            “Yeah. I like women.” Big, awkward pause. “By the way, you look really nice tonight.”

            By the way, THIS WORKS.Report

            • Avatar North in reply to veronica d says:

              I’m afraid to ask if it works as in she retreated in disarray or it works as in you, your girlfriend and her unwound the next morning by making waffles and orange juice while watching Reba reruns in your underwear.Report

      • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to North says:

        This is a really interesting line of thought here. Does this mean that were racism to end tomorrow, so would black culture? If you offered that as a bargain, would anyone take it?Report

        • Avatar veronica d in reply to LTL FTC says:

          @ltl-ftc — If you observe what is happening to (elements of) the gay community, you can see what this might look like.

          That said, I don’t expect white racism to end anytime soon, so it’s kind of pointless to focus on what minorities might choose in the absence of white racism.

          Regarding “offering a bargain,” what exactly are you proposing?Report

          • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to veronica d says:

            Bargain = in the thought experiment sense only. As in, “If you could end all oppression of members of your culture/race, putting you on equal footing in every way with the dominant group, in exchange for losing any sense or recognition that you are from a unique culture, would you do it?”Report

          • Avatar Lyle in reply to veronica d says:

            Actually what is happening is amalgamation and the taking of parts of the culture being amalgamated into the larger culture. Examples include a bunch of Christmas traditions from Germany, etc. Or growing up in the 1960s in the Detroit area Mexican restaurants were very scarce, and Chinese were not very common, since that time both have become ubiquitous nationally. Or to take a religious example, the merging of the Catholic church into the larger society, which in 1960 it was not (recall many opposed JFK because he was catholic). Typically this process takes a couple of generations till the older generation leaves the scene. To take a family history example, 3 out of 4 grandparents grew up in homes where german was spoken. However then 1917 came along and it was no longer policically correct to speak german, so my parents did not really know it. Essentially the german language services died out as my great grand parents began to leave the scene. (2 of 8 were born in Germany and came to the US as young children)
            So while many of us will not see it the question becomes what the culture will look like in 80 years or so (assuming society continues).Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LTL FTC says:

          If you offered that as a bargain, would anyone take it?

          A somewhat uninteresting question given that, of course, there are a number of people who would and a number of people who would not.

          There’s something being scratched here, though.

          There are people who would not, under any circumstances, accept this deal.

          What deal would be acceptable?

          (And, of course, at this point we might be beyond the limits of what useful conclusions thought experiments can provide.)Report

          • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

            It looks a little bit too much like the, “We’ll accept black people if they just act like white people” shit that got bandied about on this blog once before.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

              Yeah. When white people will be a minority (at some point in my lifetime), I imagine what the response would be if a similar deal was offered.

              It would not be particularly charitable to the question.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Jaybird says:

                Yeah. When white people will be a minority (at some point in my lifetime), I imagine what the response would be if a similar deal was offered.

                I don’t think that whites will be in the minority any time soon. The next generation of American-born Hispanics will be considered white, just like many already are. Asian-white intermarriage is already the most common interracial marriage pairing, so you can count them in as well.

                It’s fair to say that a constant theme of American culture that there are only really three groups: whites, new immigrants and blacks.Report

              • Avatar Lyle in reply to LTL FTC says:

                I agree look at the 1910s and 1920 when italians and other southern europeans were not white, or up till WWII when jews where not white. I suspect that by 2100 white might include both hispanics and asians.Report

              • Avatar notme in reply to Jaybird says:

                When whites are a minority do you think we’ll get to benefit from affirmative action?Report

              • Avatar North in reply to notme says:

                Probably would depend on if they suddenly became the minority or vanishing minority among university students.Report

            • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Chris says:

              Aah, the specter of respectability politics again.

              But I’m getting at something at least a little different here. As for the gay example, I know more than a few (white, cis) gay people who used to live in gayborhoods, participated in AIDS activism and generally lived in a resistance culture.

              As they got older and attitudes changed, they started to choose where to live based more on factors like living near family, having a more convenient commute and finding a house that has amenities they like at a price they can pay. Within the course of a decade, as being gay became less stigmatized, it became less important. We’ve heard this all before.

              The point is that they didn’t have to change to break down barriers, but that everyone else cared about them less. As a side effect, their resistance community is less and less relevant and thus weaker. Like the Irish or Italians, it’s down to an annual parade.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to LTL FTC says:

                I suspect that if you got rid of economic and social barriers that result from racism, you’d see much of black culture becoming more prominent.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Chris says:

                I suspect that if you got rid of economic and social barriers that result from racism, you’d see much of black culture becoming more prominent.

                I believe a variation on this: If you got rid of the economic and social barriers that result from racism, you’d see more black people becoming prominent in the culture.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to LTL FTC says:

                Right, with more purchasing power, more political power, and more cultural power.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Chris says:

                I suspect that if you got rid of economic and social barriers that result from racism, you’d see much of black culture becoming more prominent.

                What do you mean by that?

                First, I’m assuming what you mean is ‘If you got rid racism’, because it’s hard to see how the barriers would vanish without racism going away. So working from there:

                In a magical post-racism world, I see some *aspects* of what is currently ‘black culture’ being more integrated into society. (OTOH, white people have already grabbed most of the interesting things, without credit. So basically…music?)

                But at the same time, the idea of ‘black culture’ slowly disappears, turning into, as LTF FTC said, a parade once a year. And maybe some meals that black people make and call them ‘traditional’. (Whether they are or not actually traditional is not important.)Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to DavidTC says:

                The end of racism, to the extent that it’s possible, means a radically different American culture and society. The widespread, though not yet universal reduction in anti-gay sentiment has changed society as a whole to some degree, but if you saw racism melt away, you would see a radical change. It wouldn’t be a matter of black culture disappearing or even melting into white culture. It would mean that white culture and black culture and the other cultures variously influenced and suppressed by racism, would create an entirely new one, with local and perhaps even racial distinctions without racially defined hard boundaries. Part of this, again, is because when racism ends, the people who are its targets now have cultural, political, and economic power that they did not before, and part of this is that much of what white people do is no longer defined by exclusion.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to Chris says:

                Part of this, again, is because when racism ends, the people who are its targets now have cultural, political, and economic power that they did not before

                Makes you wonder what they would do with it, considering it’s conditioned on the theoretical/impossible “end of racism.” A black politics that doesn’t grapple with a racist criminal justice system, a racist economy and racist housing policies is… what exactly?

                Jewish politics only exists as such in terms of Israel. I doubt African-American politicians would have a similar interest in Africa writ large, let alone one particular African nation.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to LTL FTC says:

                Change things.Report

              • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Chris says:

                Yeah, that was basically what I was thinking, @chris .Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to DavidTC says:


          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

            Thinking about this some more, it’s effectively asking “if the terms of surrender were you being treated equally at the cost of being absorbed fully into the culture, would you take it?”

            When it’s phrased like that, I can almost see how someone would say “Eff You” in response to the question.Report

        • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to LTL FTC says:

          I don’t think Black culture is quite the same as LGBT culture. The more likely situation would closely resemble what is happening to Jews in areas of low Jew-hatred. There would still be Black culture but most would choose rapid assimilation while retaining some aspects of Black culture with some hardcore maintaining the Ghetto just like the Ultra-Orthodox Jews do.Report

          • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to LeeEsq says:

            I don’t think black and LGBT culture are the same at all. I also don’t think that change will come as fast, if it comes at all.

            I’m Jewish, and as all my Jewish friends intermarry (as did I), our Judiasm is turning into matzo ball soup, Sandy Koufax, Annie Hall and a vague recollection of the bootstraps immigrant narrative from a long-dead great grandfather.

            As to whether there would be a splinter like that between Hasidic Jews and Reform/Conservative Jews, that’s also a little different. It’s not as if Hasidim were once mainstream American Jews who slowly became more different – they came here like that. Perhaps a more apt comparison would be between African-Americans in the original sense of the word and more recent African immigrants.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to North says:

        Slate had an interesting about the next steps for the French LGBT community. If the article is true, a French LGBT sub-culture or identity never really developed in the same what LGBT sub-culture did in the Untied States, Canada, United Kingdom, or other Anglophone countries because French government policies towards all sub-French identities, which is generally hostile. If this is true than it suggests that a government can prevent the formation of subcultures even if not being that friendly towards them.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to veronica d says:

      Generic white culture might not be able to be a resistance culture but there are obvious and definite subcultures within white culture that are their own thing without facing structural oppression. Jewish culture in it’s various forms is a thing. There are Jewish holidays, rituals, food, books, music, institutions, events, and in-jokes. The Ultra-Orthodox communities are a pure subculture as one gets even if not a very sexy one. The level of Jew hatred in modern America is definitely less than that faced by African-Americans or LGBT people but I think it is very uncharitable to say that Jews are only maintaining a subculture out of jealousy for the really persecuted.Report

      • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Commence 30-comment string on whether or not Jews are white.Report

      • Avatar CK MacLeod in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Y’all write as if the US exists in isolation. It is easy for the “majority culture” to position itself as an embattled “minority culture” if it can be portrayed as “up against the world” – and against internal agents of hostile foreign powers.

        Though I do think that much of the passion of Trump’s followership derives from reading “Make America Great Again” as “Make America White Again,” the need to view nationalism as ethnic nationalism exclusively, in other words as crypto-racism and nothing else, has not been borne out in history, though on the other hand it is equally a mistake to deny the residual power of ethnic identity, which among other things provides for ready, common, and perhaps biologically pre-conditioned responses to stress.

        The closer your world approximates a prison yard, the more “racial” identification seems a survival necessity rather than an answer to some kind of abstract “longing” or a possible theme for a potluck or parade. And the world can sometimes seem like one gigantic prison yard. The degree of success of the American project in forging a national identity significantly on other terms should not be underrated, whatever its contradictions.Report

    • Avatar DavidTC in reply to veronica d says:

      There is a thing that contemporary America white culture can not be: it cannot be a resistance culture. It cannot be a subculture. It cannot stand outside.

      It is obvious to the point of boredom to point out that privileged white people hunger for the “connection” that exists in a resistance culture.

      I have to slightly disagree with that. You are right that the majority culture cannot, for obvious reasons, be a resistance culture. Or a subculture.

      However, one word: Internet.

      Back in gay history, there were entire systems that existed for gay people to find each other without drawing attention from the outside. People with any sort of sexuality or gender behavior ‘outside the norm’ could group up, because enough of them existed *to* group up in large towns.

      But throughout history, there have always been people who didn’t quite fit in in *other* ways. The neuro-atypical. The furry, or whatever they would have been before that concept was formalized. And more than that. The train-watcher. Etc, etc.

      Some of these things people were allowed to be open about, and some of these not.

      So during that time, during the first 200 years of ‘white culture’ in America, subculture for white people was, maybe, what church you went to, or sports team you rooted for. And there were a slight few ones you could decide to join if you knew they existed, like a bird watcher or something.

      Then the internet happened, and along came search engines and the ability to visit places pseudonymously. Suddenly, everyone could find *everyone*. And everything exploded, to the extend we haven’t yet figuring out the changes.

      And everyone got a ton of subcultures that they could join. Or, really, discover they had been part of all the time. So while ‘white culture’ cannot be a subculture. But, at this point, it is perfectly possible for privileged white people to belong to a subculture, and it is perfectly possible for that subculture to be a resistence culture. (And, no, ‘nerd culture’ stopped being a resistence culture about a decade ago.)

      You’ll notice that white racists trying to build a “white identity” are doing it under the terms of a resistance culture, by which I mean, that is their rhetoric.

      They might be jackasses, but they are *sorta* correct. The culture of white supremancy (And at this point it really is a culture, with codes and memes and whatnot.) actually is a resistence culture to people trying to stamp it out and a society that disapproves of them. And the ‘rebel’ iconography is a little *too* ingrained in society, a little too easy to go to, so that’s where they go. And they aren’t ‘wrong’, in the sense that they really are ‘rebelling’ against a societal norm. (It’s just a *good* norm and they’re jackasses.)

      But this just proves the point that not all cultures are *good things*, or at least don’t do a net good. Sometimes they do good (Providing safe spaces for homosexuals), sometimes they do bad (providing echo chambers for bigots.)Report

  16. Avatar Iron Tum says:

    There will never be a time when whites are a minority in the U.S., for the simple reason that “whiteness” is not a specific thing. The key thing to remember is that whiteness is and has always been an expanding category — not to rehash the bit about the Irish, the Italians, the Greeks, the Jews and the Poles but it was within some of our older readers’ memories that the the “original” American whites were still trying to distinguish themselves from the arrivistes, and earned the moniker “WASP.” All “whiteness” is, is a state of mutual cultural intelligibility with the dominant culture. Which means, unless you take active steps to resist acculturation/assimilation, you will eventually become white. There are a hell of a lot of Asian and Hispanic whites in Texas, as Nob can probably attest.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Iron Tum says:

      I’m in agreement without for the most part. Whiteness has always been a fluid identity in the United States that has continually changed and expanded. It would not surprise me if many Hispanics and Asians, particularly those that marry white people, and their offspring are going to get counted as white in the future. This would require a halt to immigration for awhile. The 1924 quotas and the relatively low amounts of immigration between 1924 and 1965 allowed for the Eastern and Southern European immigrants to get absorbed into the mainstream of American society.Report

  17. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Just got around to reading this post, and I’m not sure I get the issue or worry. Seems to me that the idea of a “positive white identity” would be to view the sum total of what white identity is comprised of and pair off the bad leaving only the good, yeah? Thing is, any particular white person who self-identifies as white and consciously holds that particular even idiosyncratic, identity in their mind already thinks that white identity is positive thing. (Otherwise they wouldn’t hold that specific conception of it.) On the other hand, viewing other people’s conceptions of actions and beliefs resulting from their conception of white identity is a non-starter since it attributes a conception of identity to them that they may not in fact hold (ie., it begs the question being asked).

    Cultural norms which reveal themselves as patterns of behavior expressed by a dominant group, it seems to me, have very little to do with an individual’s subjectively held concept of “identity”. Most of those norms are expressed – or a bunch anyway – either unconsciously or despite subjective self-concepts or consistently with such a self-concept.

    So, I dunno about the merits of such a project, actually. Seems so meta-intentionalized it’ll fail to have much bearing on anything happening down here in the real world.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

      Seems so meta-intentionalized it’ll fail to have much bearing on anything happening down here in the real world.

      Which makes it a paradigmatic example of what constitutes at least my conception of white identity. Heh!Report