Critiquing Whiteness as Being a Non-Thing

This post originally appeared on Samm Kitzul’s Teaching Blog.

I frequent the social media site, Reddit, quite often and while it is a great source of entertainment for me, there are also posts that make me ponder my educational worldview. One question that made the front page asked, “What is it like to be white?”. When I clicked on the link I figured that there quite possibly may be a lot of comments that fall into that “systemic racism” realm or even posted that would show an ignorance to white privilege. While I don’t at all claim to everything there is to know about white privilege, I knew that the basic understanding I had would at least allow me to critique some of the responses and be an opportunity to gain some insight into other perspectives. The insights others had to offer really humbled me. One comments that particularly stood out for me included the concept of white-ness being an almost “non-thing” compared to the culture of others. It answers the original question, “What is it like to be white” and responds:

“There’s a lack of identity associated with it.  I don’t think of myself as white any more than I think of myself as blue-eyed.  It’s a feature, not part of who I am.   There’s no real struggle to emphasize empathize with, no real connection to other white people based just on being white.  At least not that I’ve experienced, so it’s just a non-thing.

A checkbox on a form and nothing else.

Hell, it’s less of an identity thing than hairstyle, at least for me.

As for day-to-day life, it’s honestly hard to consider, since I’ve never not been white.

I guess I’m not worried about going 10 over the speed limit, since I’m no more likely to be pulled over than anyone else.  Is that a concern for minority drivers?  I honestly don’t know.”

While I’m sure there are negative and perhaps troubling aspects to this persons response, (stating that being white is “not who I am”) I find the general message quite relatable to my own experiences. I feel at times almost apathetic to my race and culture in general which perhaps is a very prime example of exactly what white privilege is at it’s core. The fact that I don’t have to think about these racial difference as being a burden on my every day life is why I am privileged, and the very fact that white-ness can be vocalized to be a “non-thing” proves this. Many times I believe people mistake white privilege as being a synonym for general privilege; that white folk who go through exceeding amounts of struggle and hardship are simply exempt from the concept of white privilege based on the fact that they have suffered comparable amounts to minority groups. Very recently there was a UofR Confessions post regarding this issue. I would professionally argue however, that white privilege is solely based on this premise of race being a “non-thing” that is not dependant on the level of hardships an individual has gone through.

On a side note however, and relating to the commenter’s thought about speeding 10kms over the speed limit, I was recently caught by a camera on the highway doing just that… Going ten clicks over. I can assure you however that since it was a camera that caught me, no racial prejudice can be blamed for the fault in my actions 😉

Thanks for reading!

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