In discussing this project, certain of my interlocutors – when I mentioned this entry
– felt it was unnecessary, that “whiteness” needs no explaining or description. As
Richard Dyer argues in his study of whiteness as a racial position, such assumed
neutrality is a reflection of power structures and cultural biases which see whiteness
and humanity as the same thing.79 They are “natural facts” that need no explanation.
Yet in today’s world, the experience and fact of being white is far from simple.
For one thing, there are degrees and hierarchies of whiteness, which see certain white
groups as less white than others. For example, the place of Southern Europeans, the
Irish and Jews in the schema has long been a source of anxiety, while Northern
Europeans are often perceived as “ur-white”. There is then the question of whether
being white somehow overlaps with Christian culture. Neither of these questions
has simple answers and the matter is further complicated when we consider how
the reality of both “white privilege” and “white guilt” complicate the culture and
experience of being white today.