The Concept of White-Washing

“I have nothing against Black people. My coworker is Black and he speaks and dresses very well. He acts White. It’s the ones that walk around with their boxers out that I don’t like.”

We’ve all heard someone say something like this at some point. One of my best friend’s Dad used to make comments like this all the time, and while it always made me somewhat uncomfortable, I never understood the extent of just how horrible that was. The article we read this week by Sue (2010) mentions this in the section about the false image of America as a melting pot. Our country tries to paint itself as this all-inclusive place where all different cultures can come together and be valued and celebrated. However, the reality is that White Euro-Americans are only okay with people of different cultures and backgrounds coming here if they assimilate, and even then they are not totally welcome, they are tolerated. Those who are not White are constantly reminded of how inferior they are, that they are viewed by Whites as a form of subhuman. It may not be as explicit now as it was 30 or 40 years ago, but we can still find hints of these societal convictions in statements such as the one above.

The melting pot is a myth. We do not celebrate everyone’s race and culture here, the goal is actually to subdue those with racial differences, to “white-wash” them.  This is incredibly problematic because White Euro-Americans are trying to diminish other cultures, and essentially erase them. Is there a way to show people how insidious and harmful these comments are? And if they respond by saying that you’re being too sensitive or overreacting, how do you refute that? What I’ve come to find in interactions like these, when I try to politely bring something up most of the responses I get are “I don’t want to hear it,” or “People are becoming too PC these days.” How do you respond to a comment like that?

4 thoughts on “The Concept of White-Washing”

  1. I really agree with your post! I feel like we constantly are hearing comments like the one you opened with but we never know how to confront them. I feel that our society has this norm to be PC and sometimes being PC is somewhat implicit racism. When trying to be PC it is easy to hide behind what one is saying and ignore the truth as it may not seem PC. Who created PC and why do we always need to be PC as it may cause more harm than we think. It is definitely a confusing aspect of our society and sometimes an area that people do not want to talk about because it isn’t “right.”

  2. I have defintitely had experiences with people like this. My roommate (who is Black) was telling me that one of her best friends from home has kind of racist parents. The friend would say things like, “Oh, but they don’t not like you, you’re not like that, they just don’t like how Black people ….” etc, etc. I don’t really know how to respond to comments like this. It’s so much more than just being PC. When you just happen to only like the Black people who act White, then maybe you do have something against Black people. It might seem like someone is being over sensitive, but people who make accusations of sensitivity are not targeted by comments like this in any way or effected by it, so it would seem like it’s not a big deal to them. But invalidating someone’s identity like that is not any small issue.

  3. I’ve definitely felt what you outline in your last paragraph. It’s really disheartening to be told you’re being overly sensitive. I try to remember that the people who say things like “everyone is too PC” have a misunderstanding of what they’re being asked to do when us “bleeding heart liberals” ask them to consider that what they just said may have been offensive. I think many people perceive it as if they’re simply being asked to censor themselves – they feel as if they’re being stifled just so they won’t hurt someone’s feelings. However, what we’re actually asking, I believe, is for them to see that their actions and words have a much deeper and profoundly harmful effect on PoC than just hurt feelings. How do we more accurately convey this message in conversation? I think we can potentially find the answer in the process of engaging with more of these people who say things like “everyone is too PC.” Let’s dig deeper. Let’s find out more about how they feel and why they feel that way. It might help us better get our messages across in the end.

  4. I totally agree with your comments! I can also totally recall people saying similar things to the quote that you opened with. It is very interesting the way that people can try to justify themselves.

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