Thursday, July 14, 2016

#BlackLivesMatter Shows How #WhitenessSoFragile

The United States had a very tumultuous week last week. The deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, the five Dallas police officers, the #BlackLivesMatter demonstrations that emerged from the events, the chaos of some of those demonstrations, the calls for people to “act more like Martin Luther King” have all brought about something that has been apparent for a while, but no one seemed to realize.


Since the birth of whiteness, it was a very unstable construct. It came about around the time people had to justify why they could go to entire different countries and murder and/or enslave the citizens of those lands, take all of their shiny things, on-point fashion, and tasty foods, and still sleep at night, knowing that their beds were soaking in indigenous blood. So how could one do this to people and still in good conscience call oneself a “good Christian”? By making fragile whiteness. Blackness became a thing you could be, and one’s blackness made them less than human. “Mongoloid” and “Negroid” and “Caucasoid” were actually scientific terms. Keep in mind that phrenology was a science, too. Now it only exists as one of the Roots’ most slept on LPs.

Whiteness prevailed for quite a while. The Dutch were especially ruthless with their whiteness (I’m looking at you, King Leopold I), but the Spanish and Portuguese did a pretty good job of waving their whiteness around too. The UK used it the most, though. There are only about 20 countries in the world that had not been occupied or invaded by Britain. Hell, you’re reading this in English! Their whiteness game was on FLEEK!

Whiteness has been used as a cudgel and a standard for what is right or better. To this day, Indians are buying up skin whiteners. East Asians are having their epicanthic folds removed or altered to “round” their eyes. Black people are still buying products that literally burn them to straighten their hair to look more “professional”. 3-inch long “white” hair in the office? Totally fine. 3-inch long black hair in the office? Getting a fucking haircut, Johnson. This isn’t a record label.

Even at its peak, you could tell #WhitenessSoFragile, though. White people spent their time trying to prove that OTHER white people weren’t white. African-descended peoples weren’t the only ones “scientifically” equated with apes. The Irish suffered this indignity as well. So did the Scottish, Germans, Greeks, Italians, Polish, French (Yes! The FRENCH!,  and pretty much anyone who wasn’t English or Dutch. How fragile is your construct of European-American superiority when you try to not let OTHER European-Americans join your club?

Today in America, #WhitenessSoFragile is manifesting in the vitriolic way that people respond to anything having to do with another ethnicity advocating for itself or taking pride in itself. People call the NAACP racist because they claim it’s the National Association for the Advancement of COLORED People, and not all people, ignoring the fact that the NAACP was founded but both black and white people, and never excluded anyone. When Black History Month became more popular, fragile whites would complain, “Why isn’t there a WHITE History Month? Black History Month is racist!”, completely ignoring that there was no legitimate history of black people in America in public schools since the inception of public schools, which is ironic, because not only did America benefit from free labor from blacks to build the superpower that they are today, those first schoolhouses were likely built by black slaves.

Those white tears do taste scrumptious, though…

#WhitenessSoFragile reared its tear-stained head after Jesse Williams spoke at the BET Awards. 95% of his speech was about America as a whole and directed toward black people specifically. He mentioned the word “whiteness” once, and people initiated a petition to have him fired, because their fee-fees got hurt. How fragile is your social construct when you will complain about something not about you, broadcast on a channel that you probably NEVER WATCHED IN YOUR LIFE?

#WhitenessSoFragile manifests itself in the nerd and geek world all the time as well. Mention how Marvel has a black Spider-Man, and watch a white male talk about how his childhood has been ruined because of it. You’ll get the same response when you discuss the black Wally West, the new black woman Iron Man, the Asian Hulk, the Pakistani Ms. Marvel, Zendaya Mary-Jane, or any other transracial superhero icon. I’m sure that when John Stewart Green Lantern come on the scene in 1972, there was a young Bull Connor type lamenting about how this is the end of comics and his silly little life. White fragility often coincides with #MasculinitySoFragile, as exemplified by the response to Jane Foster Thor, Captain Marvel’s newest non-bathing suit costume, and the all-woman Ghostbusters movie. The tears look and taste the same: DELICIOUS.

#WhitenessSoFragile is often defended with the same rubber/glue defense. When Steve King tried to lobby to keep Andrew Jackson on the $20 note, the cornerstone of his argument was that changing to Harriet Tubman was racist and sexist. Only in the sad, paranormal world of Fragile Whiteness would switching from the face of a mass murdering slave owner who probably beat his wife to a that of woman who freed hundreds of slaves and led battles against the confederacy be considered “racist” or “sexist”. The rubber/glue defense didn’t work in elementary school, and it doesn’t work now. It actually shows how infantile people can be about their flimsily constructed norm.

People mischaracterizing the #BlackLivesMatter movement as anything but a new chapter in the long-running Civil Rights Movement shows how #WhitenessSoFragile. Here’s a fun parlour trick: ask anyone who says that #BLM is only about black people* if they were vocal when Dylan Noble or Zachary Hammond or Amanda Steele died. When they ask you, “Who?”, you will immediately see an anthropomorphic frog drinking iced tea. Most of the time, Fragile Whiteness will claim that the #BLM needs to take a page from Martin Luther King’s book and stage peaceful protests that don’t obstruct people’s day to day lives, and stop messing with people’s livelihoods with their student protests and blocking of thoroughfares and boycotting of venues. If #BLM were to emulate Dr. King, then they would be doing exactly what they are doing. MLK led public protests and blocked major thoroughfares and encouraged boycotting venues. #WhitenessSoFragile has a very negative affect on memory, so much so that it has turned “be more like MLK” into the modern, “Why don’t you be a good negro and keep your head down?”.

#AllLivesMatter isn’t just the corollary counter to #BlackLivesMatter as #NotAllMen is to #YesAllWomen. It is a product of #WhitenessSoFragile. If Fragile Whiteness weren’t so fragile, then it would not be so quick to reassert itself into a conversation in such a defensive posture. Seriously, we get it. All lives DO matter. You just need to remember that when certain people say “All Lives Matter” but then demonize black and female victims of crime to justify why a white guy did it, they think that all lives matter as much as Thomas Jefferson meant all lives matter when he said that “all men are born with certain unalienable rights”, even though he deliberately excluded women, owned black slaves, and was a virulent homophobe.

“This political correctness is getting out of hand” is #WhitenessSoFragile for, “Wahhh! I have to respect other people and their lives! They’re calling me on my bullshit!” It is fun to mock, but be careful. As fragile as Whiteness is, it is still very volatile and can still kill. There are families in South Carolina, Santa Barbara, Colorado, Sandy Hook who can attest to the dangers of Fragile Whiteness. That is still not going to stop me from pointing out examples of #WhitenessSoFragile when I see it. I'm just going to be a little bit more vigilant about it.

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