Deconstructing “whiteness” won’t change my skin.

IMG_4949Mariel Rieland,
Seattle, WA.

I’m about as stereotypically European-American as you can get… Born to an upper-middle-class family, raised in the suburbs, graduating from a private Christian university. And yet, I’m a sociology major who studies systematic social inequality for a living. I’ve learned how to deconstruct the broken systems of race, gender, and class that influence all of our lives. I am passionate about changing these realities and working towards equality and freedom for all people, but I struggle with the fact that I will always be seen as “white.” My privilege is embedded in my skin, no matter how hard I try to distance myself from it or work beyond it. I know I will never understand what it is like to live as a POC, or as a social minority in general. I’m grateful for the privileges I’ve had, but I grieve at the fact that my very existence predicates upon a history of systematic violence and discrimination. Is it possible to redeem whiteness? That is the question I ask myself.

Keep the conversation going - comment and discuss with your thoughts

  • Martin Kuc III

    Very thoughtful Question.

  • Neighbor

    Why not start by focusing on one “privilege” variable – class. How much of the “history of systematic violence” was really about your class background and not your race? Think about the white families (like mine) with an unbroken history of being part of the exploited underclass.

    is it possible to redeem the ruling classes?

    Meanwhile please don’t try to spread the blame equally onto all people who share your skin color.
    Thanks.

  • Andrea

    You didn’t create the circumstances of your birth or the history that lead up to it. So I am not sure you have done anything that requires or — more importantly, perhaps — permits “redemption.”

    The only meaningful response is what happens going forward. First, recognize privilege, as you are doing. Work to see that the financial and social advantages of race and class are not perpetuated. Call out racism whenever you see it. Stand in solidarity with others in the struggle. Use your influence in your community and at work. Raise your children to understand the issues.

    The structures that produced the inequities of race developed over many years. They will only be taken down through the steady work of committed individuals over time.

  • Jon Brock

    This post actually made me lol. It’s the kind that you’re not sure about whether it’s a parody or not.

  • Kat777

    I am a 50+ year old white woman and I believe an understanding of white privilege needs to be taught in schools early on. To me, it is a missing concept that many white people have never closely examined. I felt for a long time that because I am white I was exempt from racial concerns and issues; I knew I wanted everyone to be treated equally, but I didn’t realize until very recently, that I am part of the discussion, that my “whiteness” is a factor in day to day life.

 

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