Skip to main content

View Diary: Race and Prejudice in America Today: A Series – White Supremacy and White Privilege (41 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Even "whiteness" has its degrees of privilege. (10+ / 0-)


    It wasn't too long ago that my people "need not apply".  

    PS:  What is "assimilating to whiteness'?   You can't turn white.  Is it "acting" white?   And what is "acting white"?   Does that make you a "cornball brother", as RGIII is alleged to be by some?   And what does that attitude say about why there is still a divide between the races?  

    I enjoy these discussions, and would encourage you to address these questions in future installments.  Tipped and rec'd.

    PS:   When I got engaged to a woman of Northern Italian heritage in 1978, my German grandmother asked me if she was an "Eyetalian", even though she looks more Irish than I do.   When I said yes, she told me that I was "lucky to be living in 1978", as "back in the day, when your father was your age, Eyetalians were barely considered to be white people".   True story.  

    Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause. - Gandhi

    by SpamNunn on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 07:03:37 AM PST

    •  No, but you can be accepted as "white" (6+ / 0-)

      That's pretty much what happened to the Irish and Italians... and Frederick Douglass never ceased to lament at the racism that came specifically from the Irish immigrants.

      you can see portions of the pattern of "assimilating into whiteness" with the Eastern European immigrants that came in the 1990's.

      •  The Irish immigrants saw people of color migrating (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Tony Stark, Will Smith, Chitown Kev

        North as threats to their employment on the lowest rungs of manual labor (ditch digging, railroads, etc)   Things got pretty ugly as a result, and you can still see echoes of that in certain places - Boston, for example.  

        Intolerance betrays want of faith in one's cause. - Gandhi

        by SpamNunn on Fri Dec 28, 2012 at 09:36:45 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I've lived in Boston for a bit (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Will Smith

          and yes, it's there.

          In fact, I was living in Boston when the Chuck Turner corruption trial came up, he didn't blame "white people,", he blamed "the Irish."

          I very highly doubt that Italian Americans in Boston rushed to defend Irish-Americans...well, outside of maybe Michael Severin, lol

          •  Wrong link (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Will Smith
            But as he was kicked off City Council Turner's ethnically charged outburst created outrage. Turner said he blamed his ouster on the Irish he claimed he was a martyr cut from the same cloth as the city's legendary Mayor James Michael Curley.

            The replies from his critics were instantaneous. "Chuck Turner is certainly no James Michael Curley," Democratic State Representative Marty Walsh told the press.

            The council, which includes five members with Irish surnames, voted 11-to-1 to expel Turner, marking the first time the board has ever booted a member.

            "Those Irish men and women forgot their history," Turner said of the council. "James Michael Curley is ashamed of his descendants."

        •  Here's a decent link (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Will Smith

          actually, a lot of it was also newly Irish immigrants that wanted to take jobs from black folks.

          In Philadelphia, the African-Irish problem dated back to early 19th century when Ulster (Irish) Protestants and free blacks arrived in the city in great numbers. The firehouse was the social and political center of neighborhood life and African Americans were refused their own department. Then one night in August 1834, a group of young black men attacked the Fairmount Engine Company, running off with equipment. Three days later, the city’s first full-scale riot erupted.

          What newspapers called a “lunatic fringe” attacked an amusement hall that housed a carousel called the “Flying Horse,” a popular entertainment for both blacks and whites living crowded together in the working-class boarding houses near 7th and South Streets.

          Correspondents claimed that a mob threw a corpse from its coffin, cast a dead infant on the floor, “barbarously,” mistreating its mother. By the end, two were dead, many beaten, and 20 homes and two churches destroyed. Twelve out of the eighteen arrested had Irish names.

          A committee assigned the cause to employers hiring blacks over whites, with many “white laborers out of work while people of color were employed and able to maintain their families.”

    •  I don't like the term "acting" white (5+ / 0-)

      but I think there is truth in the term "assimilating to whiteness."  We tend to view how someone behaves as a natural expression of who they are.  "I talk the way I talk, b/c its the only way I know how to talk."  A lot of times this is true.  However, more often than not, behavior is much more of a choice.  I can choose to act gay or straight, white or black.  I can choose to take on the traits of the dominant culture, or I can choose not to, and face the consequence.  That in my mind, is what the term "assimilating to whiteness" means.  Whiteness is the kind of generic catch all for what it means to be normal in our society.  

      I'm going to give two, kind of weird, but I think relevant examples.  1.) If you've ever known someone who has come out the closet, I think many times  you can see a palpable difference in how they behave.  I'm not talking just about perception.  I'm talking about people who i knew were gay, who than came out gay publicly, and whose behavior changed after the public recognition of their homosexuality.  Whether they were "acting" straight before or "acting" gay now is not the issue.  The issue is that their behavior changed to become more similar to the group they chose to identify with.

      The 2nd example I'll give is from the Chappelle Show - "When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong."  I'm particularly thinking of the skit when Dave begins to act "street" in an executive boardroom.  If you come from a racial or sexual minority, I think you understand the dichotomy Dave is mocking in that scene.  At any point a person can choose to "keep it real" or "act black" or they can choose to fit in.  What constitutes fitting in is often accepting the invisible identity that is whiteness.  

      When you're white, you may not see it as a decision as whether to fit in with the dominant culture or stay part of the minority culture, but a lot of times it is.  You may not ever be faced with that decision, but for persons of color, its a decision they must make if they want to fit in and achieve with certain segments of our population.

      Some groups can assimilate to whiteness more easily than others.  After years of mixing, its hard to tell a person with french ancestry from one with italian ancestry and so on.  Assimilating to whiteness for those of southern and eastern European backgrounds meant dropping the markers that made them different; namely dropping the customs, language and religions of Southern and Eastern Europe (with Americans becoming more comfortable with Catholicism, and Catholicism becoming more palpable for Americans).   You can see the same struggle between whiteness and customs, language and religions playing out with modern day Mexican immigration.  The number of children of immigrants who speak spanish is very low - their parents want them to fit in, assimilate to whiteness.

      For black people, like myself, there are number of barriers to assimilate to whiteness.  Part of it, I think, comes from some of the history Will Smith described, where white was so often set up to be the absolute antithesis of black and vice versa.  

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site