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9.7: Summary/Review

  • Page ID
    • Teresa Hodges

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    The normalization, invisibility, and institutionalization of whiteness have given it an enduring power. While some are quick to name non-whiteness when talking about people (Black man, Asian worker, Chicana girl, etc.) the lack of designation for whiteness goes unmarked (man, worker, girl). The perpetual and devastating history that embraced genocide through settler colonialism, scientific racism and eugenics, and structural oppression has roots in racism that sought to distinguish a white supremacy and still impacts us today. The ongoing inequalities that create long-lasting disparities between whites and non-whites sustains over generations and the forgotten histories surrounding it ensures its continuity. From history to the present day, from understanding how people create race and racial categories and ideas constantly changing, from connecting the institutional to the interpersonal, internal, and cultural, we see the power of whiteness. We see how the power lies in the Eurocentrism that marginalizes nonwhite lives and shapes our understanding of reality.

    Key Terms

    • Racial formation: As defined by Michael Omi and Howard Winant (2014) this is the process in which racial identity is created and experienced. Omi and Winant argue that race is never static - instead racial categories are defined, redefined, transformed, destroyed, and contested throughout society and history. Racial formation is the process by which social, economic, and political forces shape the meaning and importance of racial categories which are also influenced by racial meanings.
    • Racial projects: Something identified as racial, whether having direct association to a racial group, whether true or not or even something like having a motive to designate something racially. Racial projects are the effort to organize and distribute resources along racial lines. Racial projects can be defined as racist if “it creates or reproduces structures of domination based on racial signification and identities” (Omi and Winant, 2014, p. 128).
    • Scholar, activist, Chicana feminist Elizabeth Martinez explicitly defines white supremacy as a system that promotes privilege and power of whiteness for white people through institutional entities
    • In the 1990s, Ethnic Studies scholar George Lipsitz coined the term Possessive Investment in Whiteness, or PIW. PIW is a way to explain how white people are encouraged to “buy” into whiteness, promote it, maintain it, uplift it, and exclude access from others. Possessive Investment in Whiteness is to embrace the category of whiteness as a community that embraces white skinned hierarchy in order to obtain advantages that go deeper than everyday privilege. These advantages range from creating laws /policies/procedures that benefit white as a privileged class, that maintains generational wealth by excluding non-whites and profiting from structured discrimination
    • Redlining is the labeling of certain communities predominantly occupied by people of color to be red and as distinct and inferior to white communities. This creates inequitable housing opportunities and maintains wealth for white people by rejecting people of color from obtaining home loans to purchase homes in white communities and also financially devaluing homes in communities of color that make it nearly impossible to accumulate wealth. In home ownership deeds in white communities, there would be explicit directions that prohibited people of color to buy homes in white communities.
    • PIW predominantly and most generously enables white people to dismiss race and promote colorblindedness. It is in the best interest of whiteness to mask historical oppression as this exposes the wrongdoing that comes from whiteness as superior. Colorblind racism therefore uses the notion of colorblindedness to uphold white supremacy especially through policies and laws that normalize the absence of color which then promotes whiteness as standard instead of inclusion of others.
    • Institutional oppression is oppression within organizations, societal institutions such as government, health, media, schooling, and more. According to Omi and Winant, institutional oppression is one that is largely seen through laws, policies, and protocols.
    • Interpersonal oppression is when someone is being oppressed by another person, thus inter + personal.
    • Internalized oppression is when a person internalizes negative messages, stereotypes, etc. that are associated with some aspect of them.
    • Ideology is a set of beliefs such as within a group
    • Hegemony is the dominance of one groups’ beliefs over others. When dominating beliefs are the standard or norm within organizations and institutions, it then establishes power for the dominant group and therefore helps to solidify dominant practices and beliefs within laws and policies that then are applied to everyone.
    • "Culture of power" in schools that socialize students to perpetuate White middle-class norms.
    • Cultivating identity and multiple epistemologies in schools, even classrooms, can work to counter the misrecognition and dehumanization of students’ identities and cultures. Delgado Bernal (2013) pointedly states, “Although students of color are holders and creators of knowledge, they often feel as if their histories, experiences, cultures, and languages are devalued, misinterpreted, or omitted within formal educational settings” (p. 390). In order to counter this, she says that these aspects must be “recognized and valued in schools” (Delgado Bernal, 2013, p. 403).
    • Louis Althusser further identifies an Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) where interrelated institutions together perpetuate the status quo (Feinberg and Soltis, 1985, p. 57). Feinberg and Soltis name these institutions such as “communications, such as newspapers, radio and television; the cultural institutions; the family; political parties and trade unions” and more (Feinberg and Soltis, 1985, p. 57). Feinberg and Soltis cite Althusser’s naming of the “function” of ISAs as a way to socialize people and direct their decisions and thus “maintaining the current system of production relations and power” especially “of the ruling class” (Feinberg and Soltis, 1985, p. 57)
    • "Structures of dominance" agree that society impacts institutions especially through ideologies, or group beliefs, especially dominant ideologies that shut down others in a cycle of institutional, interpersonal, internalized, and societal oppression
    • Racial innocence is how white children are seen as more racially innocent than Black children. This contributes to how people think we should let children be exposed to topics surrounding race and racism. Studies show children are exposed to these things in the world whether or not we talk about it with them.
    • A now historic doll test was conducted with white children and Black children in the 1950s. Children were shown dolls that were Black and white and were asked various questions about the dolls. The questions included “what doll was the bad doll”? or “what doll is the pretty doll?” while being shown the Black and white doll. Many times the children associated being bad, inferior, and ugly with the Black doll and being good, beautiful, and smart with the white doll.
    • Racialization is assigning a racial category to someone especially that has not had a designation before (Omi and Winant, 2014)
    • Metanarrative is a dominant narrative that is often based on stories told about people, and in this case that serve to determine who is an “insider” and who is an “outsider” as an “American” national.
    • “Perpetual foreigners” is a common stereotype about Asian Americans. No matter how long Asians have been in the U.S. collectively, many are seen as foreign as if they have just arrived in the United States. This reflects the racist perception that is isn’t possible that Asians too can be from the U.S. either born or living here a long time.
    • The normalization of whiteness helps the standardization of whiteness because when whiteness is normalized, it is held with greater esteem and therefore becomes the “standard” in which all must strive to.

    Discussion Questions

    1. How has whiteness changed over time?
    2. Give examples of how whiteness is institutionalized.
    3. What is Possessive Investment in Whiteness and what are examples of this in this chapter?
    4. How does white supremacy compare/relate to people of color histories and inequalities?

    Journal Prompts

    1. Re-visit the section on epistemologies or the key term. What epistemologies do you have that you feel are valued? What epistemologies do you have that you feel are not valued? Who values/devalues them? If more of your epistemologies were valued, how do you think that would impact you and/or others? What epistemologies of groups of color, that you know of, are not valued? What do you think would be the impact if their epistemologies were valued?
    2. Review some laws and policies in this text. How might they reflect a Possessive Investment in Whiteness? Who benefits from these policies/laws and how? Reflect on how this makes you feel.


    The Normalization of Whiteness

    Complete this chart to identify how whiteness can be invisible or normalized. You may add more categories.

    The Normalization of Whiteness Table
    Person Place Thing
    Themselves Home Media including music, movies, television, books, commercials
    Family School Policies/procedures/laws
    Friends/peers Work/extra-curriculars/sports Social media/internet
    Workers Government, hospital/doctor’s, stores, restaurants, etc. Flags, emblems, etc

    Identifying Types of Oppression

    Part A: In your group/with your partner answer which type of oppression is each scenario and why? Discuss what would make each scenario a different type of oppression (i.e. for the interpersonal oppression scenario, what would make that institutional?).

    • Oppression Type: A mixed race Black and Asian person feeling like they aren't "Black" enough or "Asian" enough.
    • Oppression Type: "...dozens of studies have found that teachers typically hold more negative attitudes about Black children's personality traits, ability, langauge, behavior, and potential than they do about White children, and that most Black students have fewer favorable interactions with their teachers than White students (Footnote: Irvine, 1990)." (Darling-Hammond, 2010, p. 65)
    • Oppression Type: In the 1930s and 40s, Filipinxs were prohibited from renting from certain areas or even go to restaurants that had signs that said "No Filipinos or dogs allowed."

    Part B. Next, consider liberation. What would liberation for our communities look like? Identify different types of liberation in your life.

    • Institutional
    • Interpersonal
    • Internalized

    This page titled 9.7: Summary/Review is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Teresa Hodges (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .