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April 02, 2007

White Blogging As Ethnic Blogging

There are a number of blogs, which shall remain nameless, that I have quit reading in the last year or so. I quit them (I do know how to quit you!) because they were so damned white.

What I mean is that the blogger/s were white, but the blogs didn't acknowledge this in any way. The blogs themselves were grandly themed and very popular, and purported--either explicitly or implicitly--to represent the ethnically non-differentiated world of that particular theme. And yet all the people they talked about, all the bloggers they linked to, all the issues discussed, were white, white and white.

Sure, of course they'd occasionally find something from a person of color or from another country, but days, weeks, occasionally even months would go by without this happening. The blogs were clearly by and about whites. That wasn't what disgusted me, though. What disgusted me was that the blogs were sincerely and truly not just for whites. I'm sure the bloggers hoped and dreamed (once a year, or maybe decade) that nonwhite people would come and read their blogs too. They sincerely thought that they were pursuing a topic rather than pursuing a white topic.

In the meantime, bloggers of color--who are always aware when they are being ethnic and when they are being general or nonethnic--have blogs which openly acknowledge the ethnicity or raciality of their points of view, and are attacked for it.

Okay, I'm not the first blogger to make this complaint, and no, it doesn't interest me anymore, either, although it still angers me. My point here is that I was reading a white friend's personal blog today, which is very popular and read and linked to by a lot of peeps in our skiffy tribe (don't think you know who I'm talking about because you don't!) and it hit me like a pile of trolls: this is an ethnic blog!

Well ... duh.

It's an ethnic blog because my friend, and all my white, blogging friends whose blogs are popular and considered a destination for a certain interest group, all of my white blogging friends who deal with "culture" and "arts and literature" and other unacknowledgedly cultural products, are doing it about, from, and for the white cultural sphere. Period.

Including poc and foreigners occasionally is nice, especially if the inclusion arises from genuine interest and admiration. But the blogs are white blogs, not just blogs. They are white book blogs, not just book blogs. They are white writing blogs, not just writing blogs. They are white blogs of interesting things, not just blogs of interesting things. They are white political blogs, not just political blogs. They are white art and film blogs, not just art and film blogs. etc. I think you get the picture.

It seems obvious now, but this is America, and the most obvious things are hidden in plain sight. George W. Bush, for example.

Now that I've had the realization, I feel differently about these white blogs. Everyone has a right--nearly a mandate, almost an imperative--to explore his or her home or group culture, to examine it, to illuminate it, to critique it. I love this about black, brown, and yellow ethnic blogs, and now I love this about white ethnic blogs as well. I no longer need them to change. I no longer have to fight down long emails to each blogger telling them how white they are and that they need to be more inclusive. They don't need to be more inclusive, any more than Cute Overload needs to blog about Iraq.

All they need to do is acknowledge that they are blogs written by white people from a white perspective about white culture. All they need to do is admit that they are white ethnic blogs.

Think that'll happen?


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oh come on, a few exemplary links..

no. way. i value my relatively troll-free life.

Oh great, now I have to put on my blog that it's for white people. Bully.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that there are white blogs, but they call themselves other things. I found one called Aryan Matters. I won't link it, you can google it. Try Christian Identity, White Nationalism, and KKK and you'll find more white blogs than you can shake a stick at.

Yeah, including a one-word "white" identifier presents the danger of coming across as not just "interested in white ethnic culture" but maybe also plain-old white supremacist. There's an extremely negative connotation.

sean, why do you think that claiming a white identity = white supremacism? does claiming an asian identity = asian supremacism?

try this statement:

"i acknowledge that i am blogging from a white american perspective, not a default american perspective"

THAT'S claiming a white identity, too.

the problem with doing that, of course, is that you're giving up a bit of privilege by saying that, and NOT that you're sounding like a member of the aryan brotherhood.

i'm really sick of whites refusing to decentralize white ethnicity because that somehow makes them kkk or aryan. guess what? the kkk is a very powerless institution, even in the south. it's just a bogeyman whites use to keep themselves from having to acknowledge their own ethnicity. the sooner "white" becomes just another group, rather than the prized central spot on the colorwheel, the sooner racial discrimination will be a thing of the past.

you REALLY want to do something against racism? BE WHITE. acknowledge your whiteness. LIMIT YOURSELF TO BEING WHITE--the way the rest of us are limited to being what whites think we are--instead of constantly trying to squirm out of it.

I've never been anything but white, except in high school when I was blackish. I understand your point that when we white folks think that our perspective is THE perspective, that it is ethnocentric. But I've always known that my POV is that of a white man. I've never denied it, except in high school when I wanted to black with all my heart.

"sean, why do you think that claiming a white identity = white supremacism? does claiming an asian identity = asian supremacism?"

Well, not in the US, no. But the only people who claim a white identity are the kooks. In Japan, there are folks who are really into Japanese identity and they are ultra-right wing. In France, the people really worried about the French identity are LePen and his crowd of enfant terribles.

I'm not trying to weasel out of your topic, I fully agree that to try to lay claim to one perspective as the true perspective is closed minded. But there is the other side of identity politics, especially when the right gets hold of it, or when the majority really gets into it.

I'm in over my head with this topic, but I get nervous about claiming racial identity and making it a central theme. It seems too post-modernist to me.

I'm more a believer in the Martin Luther King Jr. stuff about "people not being judged by the color of their skin than by the content of their character." And the Ralph Ellison Invisible Man idea that we are all limited by what people see when they look at us.

Maybe I'm not even contradicting your main point, I hope not. I'm just trying to explain the knee-jerk recoil from making public declarations of whiteness. I'm not concerned with limited my priviledge of a monopoly on the truth, I don't want to be lumped in with the other folks who wear iron crosses.

I'm in over my head with this topic, but I get nervous about claiming racial identity and making it a central theme. It seems too post-modernist to me.

Sorry to butt in, but this contradicts the post as I read it. Wasn't she saying there is no neutral and so racial identity is a central theme whether you admit it or not?

ragnell, you're not butting in! this is a public blog! plus, i liked your thinking aloud in your post. interesting thought process.

sean, okay, yes, there is a legitimate concern with claiming pride in white identity being associated with white supremacy, but a little bit of writing can take care of that. there's a difference between "white nation, love it or leave it!" and "i admit that i write from a white perspective."

also, i wasn't seriously suggesting that people put "white ethnic blog" in their tags (although HUGE props to the first person who does) but using the term "white ethnic" or "white ethnicity" rings a whole difference bell than "white race." i have yet to hear anyone outside the fields of sociology and ethnology actually use "ethnic" to refer to white americans apart from their european ethnicities.

by the way, everyone is clear on the difference between "european ethnicity" and "white ethnicity", right?

Thanks for your reply. I want first to apologize for not plainly stating my concern over the white pride connotation. I should have just said it rather than snarkily referring to it. I go crazy on the internet sometimes.

Part of it was also an emotional reaction. I know that race identity is American culture. Malcolm X described it very well in his autobiography. After his trip to mecca, he realized that racial identity is so baked into American culture that there's no getting past it.

I believe that to be true, and yet I hate it. I do wish we could just have a race-neutral culture where ideas are all that matter, or at least come first. But I also agree that to deny the importance of perspective is not part of the solution, it's part of the problem. This is a topic that drives me crazy, and not because I'm concerned with losing white priveledge, but because I just can't stand that race consciousness is so huge in myself, and our culture.

When I started referring to myself as white, other white people would get *really pissed off at me* and all weirdly defensive. That was a huge clue that it was a good idea to do it more. From there I moved to "I'm noticing that the white people in this meeting are saying that..." I thought that just calling it like it is would be useful and instructive but every time it's like I just threw a molotov cocktail into the room.

If more white people would start doing that, I'd be so pleased.

me too, badge.

I, too, sometimes call attention to the whiteness. But is it weird that people get defensive?

I am torn between two opinions on this.

1. I agree that white people often think a white perspective is THE perspective, and therefore all other perspectives are either wrong, or do not exist. I agree with Claire that acknowledging this, realizing one's limits and context is a good way to change this enthocentrism.

2. When a white person says, "Denzel Washington is a fantastic black actor," Mr. Washington and all his fans have every reason to be annoyed. My response would be, "Why isn't he just a great actor? Why put the "black" up front? So the question is, do we really help this by putting white in front of everything else? Maybe. But is there such a thing as someone just being a good actor, no matter what color?

Aryan eyes http://img117.imageshack.us/img117/4484/almondeyesbm1.jpg The internet is white imperial supremacy because God is white. We out-breed for a stronger but softer middle class is all.


(I'm way behind on reading your blog, but I wanted you to see this, at least. You probably don't remember me, but we met at Debbie Notkin's afterparty, after the Octavia Butler tribute at the Plough.)

hmmm... alright, I have to disagree. you see, while I have white skin, being "white" isn't part of my ethnic identity. I don't even comprehend what being white as an ethnic identity *means*. I'm sure that it means something to you, but it doesn't mean anything to me. As "white" is a "race", and anthropolgically speaking "race" doesn't really exist (it's a social construct, just like "gender", but with less biological grounding in fact - see the AAA's statement http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/racepp.htm ) So I've never identified with my "race".

I do, however have several cultural/ethnic identities I've always felt connected to. Cherokee, Scottish, Irish, German/Norse, English/French/Norman, "Southern"; as well as many "subcultures" I identify with - bisexual, NeoPagan, SF fan, SCAer, Classics Scholar, etc.

So, you see, the only time I experience "white ethnicity" is when a person of color imposes the racist "us vs. them" dichotomy on me.

so, catdeville, you basically share nothing cultural with the people you grew up with? or maybe you do and they're all "Cherokee, Scottish, Irish, German/Norse, English/French/Norman, "Southern"; bisexual, NeoPagan, SF fan, SCAer, Classics Scholar, etc."

by the way, i assume you identify with Cherokee, Scottish, Irish, German/Norse, English/French/Norman, "Southern"; bisexual, NeoPagan, SF fan, SCAer, Classics Scholar, etc. because you speak cherokee and keep cherokee rituals, speaks scots and irish gaelic, german, and norman french and keep their rituals as well. plus, you eat southern food, call people "sugar" instead of "honey", are discriminated against in the workplace because of your aboriginal british identity, and are pulled over by the cops for being a classics scholar.

you refuse to allow your children to marry people who don't read SF or worship hecate, are registered with the cherokee tribe and visit your relatives in oaklahoma on the res annually, do jigs when you're excited, and are often told, "you're bisexual? you don't LOOK bisexual!"

come on, don't insult me or anyone else with a brain.

thanks for the link, serene! you of course don't have to take any of this on spec, but i appreciate the support. now argue away!

You know, thinking of it this way makes it a lot clearer to me why there are those white people who want to act as if they are part of another ethnic group (I think the most popular ones would be black or asian) - it gives them a chance to have a strong ethnic identity withOUT seeming racist - I also think that's the reason that a lot of Irish people celebrate their heritage so much. It also explains why it sometimes pisses blacks off when white people try to 'act black' - said whites may see themselves as trying to cross cultural barriers, but maybe from the other side it looks like they are laying claim to a history that is considered a badge of honor by many, but that is _not_ _theirs_. Very enlightening. Thank you!

Hi Claire, I found your post through a link on you caught me lingering.

I have a quote somewhere about whiteness masking the privilege that undergirds it through the discourse of individualism. So while the oppressive circumstances faced by people of colour are hyper-analysed, and often pathologised and blamed on the biological 'race' of poc, white privilege (and the history of white oppression) is rendered invisible and ineffable.

I think that's the problem, more than white people refusing to identify what they do as ethnically white. Often, when white people invoke an ethnicity (e.g. Jewish, German, Irish), it's to undercut people of colour when they want to talk about racism. Confusion over identity claims is exploited to render any discussion of racial injustice inadmissible.

I don't think whiteness is solely something "ethnic" -- i.e. in the practices and experiences of white people -- but it's also structural, political and historical. White people taking responsibility for the advantages that history gives them doesn't just mean they have to acknowledge that they're doing something from a white perspective or limit themselves, it means challenging that perspective and the erasures and injustices it enacts on people of colour.

If you're interested in finding more white anti-racist allies of poc, Ally Work, the Shrub.com blog, and Rachel's Tavern are good places to start.

So I'm being told in my LJ that "white" isn't an ethnic identity. My response so far runs along the lines of "In this country, being white is a cultural (and if not ethnic, than some word that means roughly the same thing) heritage. The only people I've heard say it isn't are white people."

I'm not sure where the threat is if I say "Yeah, I grew up as a white person (and catdeville, you did too, because I've met you, and no one is going to go "Oh, you're clearly not white, you're Scots/Irish!") and my perspective has been colored (heh) by that."

Maybe I'm an alien, but I do appreciate your bringing this line of thinking to the forefront of my brain.

serene, i find myself in a weird position re: your comment. because i believe absolutely in each group, and each individual within that group, deciding for themselves what they are and what language to use for it. so no one should be told by others how to think of themselves.

on the other hand, we're talking about trying to get a dominant group to apply language to themselves that they only ever use for the other. the purpose is to get them to see something more clearly.

so i'm torn. i'm gonna have to think about this and maybe post later. but i like your scrappy responses so far.

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