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Critical Multicultural Perspectives on Whiteness

Views from the Past and Present

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Edited By Virginia Lea, Darren E. Lund and Paul R. Carr

Whiteness is a narrative. It is the privileged dimension of the complex story of "race" that was, and continues to be, seminal in shaping the socio-economic structure and cultural climate of the United States and other Western nations. Without acknowledging this story, it is impossible to understand fully the current political and social contexts in which we live. Critical Multicultural Perspectives on Whiteness explores multiple analyses of whiteness, drawing on both past and current key sources to tell the story in a more comprehensive way. This book features both iconic essays that address the social construction of whiteness and critical resistance as well as excellent new critical perspectives.

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11. A Chronic Identity Intoxication Syndrome: Whiteness as Seen by an African-Canadian-Francophone Woman (Gina Thésée)

Extract

Chapter 11

A Chronic Identity Intoxication Syndrome*

Whiteness as Seen by an African-Canadian-Francophone Woman

Gina Thésée

Introduction

My work requires me to think about how free I can be as an African-American woman writer in my genderized, sexualized, wholly racialised world. To think about (and wrestle with) the full implications of my situation (Morrison, 1992, p. 4).

Who am I? Who am I within the gaze of the Other? Who am I within my own reflection? I’ve been looking for the answers to these identity questions in a deforming mirror that constantly sends me the same message, a negative one that hurts. I can try to clean, polish, and soften this image but the unforgiving mirror always returns a merciless verdict: Ugly! Undesirable phenotype, outside of the well-established Western canon of beauty. I am a Black woman…. Who am I cognitively? Who am I cognitively in the minds of the other? I have been seeking answers in the expectations of my peers, my teachers, the media and society, in general, who often present me with a disqualified report card: Loser! Low intellectual quotient (IQ)! I am a Black woman…. Who am I professionally? Who am I professionally according to the standards and criteria established by the Other?

I have been seeking answers to my great professional aspirations, frustrated by the relentless social representations that have encircled me even despite my own accomplishments: Incompetent in...

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