"White" as a "race" was invented for the racialization of slavery to denote "not eligible for enslavement." For generations it was used ONLY in that context, w Europeans navigating right back to their genuine identities (French, etc) as soon as the context moved away frm slavery.
Sure, you'd see "the civilized races" as a way for Europeans to distinguish themselves from the "savages" they wanted to exploit/murder/rob thru colonization, but the idea that we were all one "race" was a new idea that just meant "we are not Black" & in the Americas, "or Native"
In Elizabethan drama, for example, you'd see ppl talking abt "the French race" or "the English race." The idea of "race" is super-squidgy in European thought, malleable enough to contain distinctions as narrow as French v English, which were HUGE to them at the time.
So "white" came along made out of racism, as a tool for the racialization of slavery, a new thought in the 16th century-- all Black ppl, all Native ppl are "inferior," "savage": we are helping them w our "white" religion & moral guidance. The thing was, we knew this was a lie.
Europeans were in Africa encountering highly developed societies. If you don't believe this, just google Queen Nzinga. We were over there encountering sophisticated societies. Many of the ppl we kidnapped were literate Muslims. Google Omar ibn Said.
And before anyone claims that Muslims were considered "savages," remember that the Iberian Peninsula & part of southern France were Al-Andalus for 700 YEARS until 1492. "Moors" were considered highly educated, advanced ppl a heartbeat before the racialization of slavery. WE KNEW.
Oh, I'm sure the average fool didn't know. But the ppl in charge, the Portuguese negotiating w Queen Nzinga, the traders encountering these societies, they knew. The idea that these were "savages" was deliberate propaganda, and a big part of that was the creation of "white."
There are abt 1 million words I could write abt this-- how this was done & its immediate impact (esp on the "white" indentured servants who were THIS CLOSE to joining w enslaved Black ppl to megarevolt-- but I'm trying not to digress.
So "white" as a "superior" identity-- white supremacy-- was invented as a tool of slavery. "Whiteness" is a BS identity that means nothing outside of the enslavement of Africans. It's not an identity anyone should be proud of. So where does that leave us today?
Because right now, this minute, whiteness is a very real identity-- every bit as squidgy as it ever was, but an identity nevertheless that white ppl in the US have embraced in the absence of a robust connection to the European identities that they lost over generations.
And because the US was built on the backs of enslaved Black ppl, who LITERALLY built America & American wealth-- created the wealth that made it possible for us to even consider separating from England-- the potentially new identity of "American" was, for white ppl, "white."
The most robust, meaningful identity became about whiteness-- distance from Black ppl, distance from Native ppl. We were at that time still largely European. We had no culture, no identity, that was not attached to a specific European culture we were intent on rejecting.
So we created an American identity for white Americans that was abt whiteness. This is why we could create foundational documents w words like "freedom" and "liberty" and "all men are created equal" while enslaving thousands of ppl. We conflated "American" w "white."
Now here we sit, hundreds of yrs later, w "white" as an identity for just under 70% of the nation, without ANY idea what "white" means or what "white" culture is outside of "not Black," "not Native," etc-- whiteness is defined as a lack.
Whiteness is defined as a lack of a "undesirable" marker. "We're superior bc we lack Blackness (etc)." There's no other identifying characteristic of "white" bc it never had any meaning other than "not eligible for enslavement."
What does it mean to be "white"? We have no culture-- we have European cultures & an American culture that was largely created by Black ppl. Black American culture is today more far-reaching & powerful than Rome was at its height.
The only usage we have for this identifier is separation from BIPOC, and we work very hard to weaponize that.

The entirety of Trumpism can be laid at the door of "white panic." For years before that 2015 elevator announcement, the right was ablaze w the idea of "white genocide."
"White genocide" is the idea that we're being replaced by POC. We're "dying out" while Latinx ppl are coming here in droves & having tons of kids, Black ppl are having tons of kids-- so the idea goes. This gave birth to a lot of nonsense.
This gave birth to the "quiverfull" movement- that white Christians need to have as many kdis as possible to "repopulate" the US w white Christians.

It gave birth to anti-immigration & the lie that immigrants are dangerous and pouring over the border to "infest" the US
The alt right chant "Jews will not replace us" comes from the antisemitic conspiracy theory that Jews are funding "caravans" of immigranst to come here & "replace" white ppl w immigrants Jews will "enslave" along w Black ppl. A modern twist on an age-old antisemitic attack.
There are a million ways this idea of "white genocide"-- that white ppl will die out & be "replaced" by POC-- has impacted the social & political climate of 2020. There are ppl who don't believe "white genocide" that believe the ideas it spawned.
How do you "genocide" a "race" that isn't a "race"? Whiteness isn't a race or a culture or an ethnicity. Its sole meaning was "ineligible for slavery/not Black or Native" & it never accrued any addtl meaning bc those ppl all had real ethnic identities- English, Portuguese, etc
This is why "white pride" is racist but "Irish pride" or "Polish pride" are not.

BUT. We have decided that it's not only "real," it's worth KILLING over, it's worth brutalizing ppl outside our group to "save."
We created "whiteness" as a weapon and it's still used that way.

What's the way out of this? I have no idea. Obviously we need to abandon whiteness, or at the very least radically redefine it so it no longer means "I am better than those ppl over there.' Is that even possible?
As a white Jew, the identity "white" is even weirder. I benefit from white supremacy & white privilege, no question. But if you ask the white supremacy enthusiasts, they will tell you that I am appropriating whiteness I don't actually deserve.
I doubt we'll be able to fully rid ourselves of "white" as an identifier. Its usefulness in discussing racism is undeniable. *And also* the category "white" as essentially a Privilege Club is doing, has done, enormous damage *world wide*.
Are we just left w radically redefining "white"? Will we abandon "white" gradually as the US becomes a majority Latinx nation? Will we radically redefine it? Is that even possible?
Anyway. That shld probably all have been on a googledoc as I sketch out my next blog post. But sometimes it makes sense to develop ideas in conversation w you brilliant ppl. And of coruse whenever you talk abt these issues, you discover more racists to block, so #SilverLining
One last addition: Yes obviously I know that various personal/moral characteristics were attributed to skin color before the racialization of slavery, but "white" was never understood as a discrete "racial" identity until the racialization of slavery.
And the racialization of slavery is what distinguishes chattel slavery as distinct, unique, and uniquely horrific compared to prior versions of slavery/slavery elsewhere in the world (like Africa).

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More from @bittergertrude

8 Jul
@mmpadellan Here's what will happen if they open schools:

1. Every teacher who can retire will retire at the last second making the nationwide shortage worse.
@mmpadellan 2. There already aren't enough teachers to teach socially distant classes, & they're CUTTING funding everywhere, so they'll be impossible. They'll blame this on teachers & call it our "failure," or blame it on unions for not letting them hire low pd untrained "emergency teachers"
@mmpadellan 3. The classrooms will not be sterilized between groups of students, & they will blame this on teachers. We don't have enough time between periods to do it & many have hall duty, prep for next class. We won't be given sterilization tools or PPE. No $$.
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