The Constant Struggle for Racial Consciousness
The book, White Evolution, recounts the historical movement toward supremacy and casts the possibility of a White evolution toward racial justice through collective critical consciousness. The constant struggle for racial consciousness has no arrival point. White consciousness will never be woke because there is no past tense and no plateau. When privilege and supremacy are akin to a constantly evolving and insidious virus (Whitefluenza), and the antidote is to outpace White evolution for supremacy with a White evolution for racial justice. This is not an individual task, but rather a systemic redesign and reconstruction of social systems and requiring the cultivation of a collective critical consciousness. White Evolution covers a great deal of historical detail and contemporary examples to explain and explore new possibilities for recognizing the importance of interdependence of humanity.
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- List of Figures
- Chapter 1. White Evolution and the White Architecture of the Mind
- Chapter 2. White Pain: “I Hurt, Too”
- Chapter 3. Whitefluenza: How Dominance is an Epidemic with No Known Cure
- Chapter 4. White 22: White If You Do, White If You Don’t
- Chapter 5. Whitroggressions: Cracker, Honky, Becky, and #Karen
- Chapter 6. White Wrath: Make America White Again
- Chapter 7. White Noise: Static, Echoes, and Amplifiers
- Chapter 8. White Consciousness: The Constant Struggle
Figure 1.1: Alabama roadside sign
Figure 1.2: Eugenics: roots and fruits
Figure 1.3: Muller-Lyer Illusion
Figure 2.1: A Replica of “Wussified Whiners” by Sarah Palin
Figure 3.1: Facebook post from Jenn Hart
Figure 4.2: Photo of authors in New York at the play, Admissions
Figure 5.1: Use of the word Caucasian in books from 1930 to 2000
Figure 6.1: Photo of Westboro Baptist Church protesters
Figure 6.2: Replica of campus poster
Figure C.1: Collins in the Langa dompas museum in South Africa
A substantial amount of writing has been published in recent years on White supremacy, privilege, and racism, with some overlaps. Some offer a new spin on previous work, while others offer a response to the plethora of current events that receive conventional and social media coverage. It can be hard to discern what to read or what tool to use, but of this we are certain—there is consistent exposure of White supremacist violence that is revealed in new and advanced ways every day. Each blog, article, or book that addresses White supremacy is imperfect, incomplete, and quickly becomes old news. As a result, we continue the struggle for racial consciousness and appreciate the fact that each person or group working in anti-racism has a different sphere of influence. In this book we present the concept of White evolution as a way to cultivate critical racial consciousness, with the hope of having a portable concept in an ever-evolving racialized society.
Is Race Real?
Race is a difficult concept. In a superficial way, we have heard people make the argument that the real problem is talking so much about race. People of all races express fatigue with the topic and resist the dialogue by criticizing the ←xi | xii→discussion as the problem. We liken that logic to saying, “talking about a virus is the problem,” as opposed to acknowledging the virus itself is a problem. In truth, race exists because of racism.
Some very thoughtful educators and scholars have advocated against the continued perpetuation of the use of race. For example, Brian Bantum in the book The Death of Race makes a very in-depth and nuanced argument that because race has produced death, then race must die.1 But race will not go away just because the term or discussion ceases to exist. Race is a byproduct of racism, and the enduring nature of racism ensures its persistence.
Advocating for the discontinued use of racial categories may come with good intentions but may unintentionally be coupled with a shallow version of colorblindness. Ignoring race may White out someone’s affinity and identity as Black or Latinx. Consider Jane Elliott—champion and pioneer of the blue eyes/brown eyes experiment which was featured on the PBS original A Class Divided in 1985.2 In 2019 she appeared on an episode of Red Table Talk with Jada Pinkett Smith (as well as Jada’s mother, daughter, and a producer who is a White woman).3 Prior to Jane joining the conversation, the women discussed the relationship between White women and women of color. They discussed the role of trust, assumptions, and history. Jada’s mother had just expressed the greatest challenges in working with White women when in the last six minutes of the episode, they brought out Jane Elliot, who was wearing a sweatshirt proclaiming:
God created one race
THE HUMAN RACE
Human beings created racism
During her short appearance on the episode, she shared provocative thoughts about her current stance on race, with her usual sense of gravitas and force. After giving a brief history lesson, she said “I’m not a White woman, I’m a faded Black person. That’s all any White person is.” Jada’s face looked stunned as Jane quickly went on to back up her point.
Jane used the platform to advance the idea that the problem is the belief in and continued use of race (sustained by racist institutions, including school systems). So, the solution is to discontinue the belief in and use of race. As a test to see if her listeners around the table got the quick lesson, she said, “If you are biracial stand up.” A couple of the women stood up and Jane almost exploded, banged her hand on the table, and said “I told you there is only ONE race. Didn’t you listen to anything I said?”←xii | xiii→
In all fairness, Jane Elliot had certainly earned the right to share her opinion. She has witnessed and endured more than most in the confrontation of White supremacy, but her commitment to this particular position seemed off. It took us a while to figure out why. We are grateful for Elliott and all she has accomplished in her many years of conducting workshops and consciousness raising with adults and especially children. We disagree with her premise in this brief appearance, not just because the social construction of race is still a felt, real, and lived experience that people of color know daily, with painful consequences. The main reason for our discomfort was her disposition. It was the way she interacted with the people of color around her. She asked no questions, showed no humility, and did not engage in dialogue. She launched an idea, pushed it, tested her listeners on whether they had learned it, and left no room for cultural humility. Toward the end of her appearance, she forcefully pointed to the table and said, “Blacks and people of color have got to stop playing defense and got to start playing offense.” Even a brave woman like Jane Elliott is, at the end of the day, still White and perpetuating White logic.
The brief vignette is an apt precursor for understanding our main premise regarding White evolution as a constant struggle for racial consciousness. Jane, a White woman, sat before Black women and gave them a lesson in eradicating race. Unintentionally, this advocate for anti-racism advanced truth with the veracity of Whiteness. Her White truth, that race does not exist, is another White lie. When we stop evolving, challenging, and pursuing critical racial consciousness, our ideas stagnate. When we become convinced that our ideas are the best and we shut out other voices from conversation, our sustenance from interdependence declines. When we are proud in a way that diminishes someone else, and when we lack the cultural humility to engage with critical feedback, our souls become stale.
Two fundamental and underlying principles drive this book. The first is that the evolution of racial consciousness requires a constant drive in the fight against the virus of White supremacy. If the virus is evolving rapidly, then our critical consciousness needs to evolve faster in order to outpace the supremacy. The second is that this evolution is not an individual act—it must be done in community through collective critical racial consciousness. The genetic makeup of human beings points to the necessity of interdependence. ←xiii | xiv→Growth and development do not lead to a solitary life so much as to being a dependable person rooted in community. The origin of White supremacy, conversely, is entrenched in reproducing uniformity and eradicating diversity. In an ecological framework, uniformity and monoculture are harmful to an ecosystem that needs diversity of thought, creativity, culture, perspective, history, and economy to survive. The White supremacy intended to preserve a pure race has created an enduring system of violence against people of color and is simultaneously hurting the endurability of humanity in exchange for the immediate gains of supremacy.
In terms of context for the book, we believe that White supremacy is a system with many evolving manifestations. The key word for us is system. It is not all about White people. Layla Saad, author of the “Me and White Supremacy Workbook,” wrote the guided journey for individuals who carry White privilege.4 In the workbook, she explains that White privilege is held by those who are visually identifiable as White, White-passing, or holding White privilege.
- XXIV, 184
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Softcover)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2020 (August)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. XXIV, 184 pp., 17 b/w ill.