Writing whiteness

Writing whiteness

What does it mean, ‘whites writing whiteness‘?

Does this include anything that people who are white write or otherwise represent, because everything bears the traces somewhere or other of the racialised politics of location? Is it rather when white people explicitly write about whiteness? Or is it when white people write about matters of race in the sense of people ‘other’ to white? Is it instead the negative racial representations in racisms – the despicable behaviours, the offensive words, the often terrible actions – that are involved, or does it also include kindness, empathy, love and so on? Is it just the overt, the spoken and what is otherwise made material, or does it encompass the gaps, the denials, the silences, the things ‘not seen‘? And the question also begs a further question: who is white, in what contexts, with what changes over time, and where are the changing boundaries?

So is it all of these, the terrible, the ordinary and the good, plus what is on the surface and what is beneath and around it, and also what is central and what is on the boundaries? Yes, all of these; but no, it is some of them at some time and in some circumstances, others of them at others. Yes, it is all of it; but no, sometimes it is actually one condensed aspect, frequently horrific, less often beatific or beneficent.

But does whites writing whiteness, howsoever interpreted, mean putting the spotlight on white people one more time, enabling us – and in whatever complicated ways we are white – to take centre stage yet again? This is the danger and should not be forgotten. It should indeed be guarded against. However, at the same time, it is also to go where the power was (and is) and to scrutinise its dynamics, its composing elements, and their changing configurations and meanings over time. How precisely is it done, whites writing and otherwise representing whiteness, and what are the reverberations? And in what ways and which circumstances has it been troubled, challenged, resisted, undone?

Last updated:  16 September 2021


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