Monday, December 10, 2012

If CNN Made a "White in America" TV Series What Questions Would You Like to See Featured?

In this post, I suggested that CNN's Black in America series is extremely problematic because of how it normalizes whiteness. I would like to play with that idea some more.

The premise behind the Black in America series is that people of color are some type of fascinating Other to be deconstructed, explained, and their mysterious ways worked through on national television.

Let us reverse the gaze for a moment. Decentering whiteness, and challenging how it is taken as a de facto, unmarked, and unnamed type of "normal" identity, is critical if we are to understand the roots--and implications--of white racial resentment and white fear in post civil rights America.

The white identity politics of the Right, which they are doubling down on following Romney's defeat by Obama, are a reaction to how conservatives perceive Whiteness as being challenged and under siege in this moment. As such, the timing is opportune for examining the "mysterious" and "problematic" ways of white folks. Such questions can serve the Common Good and better prepare all of us for an America where the colorline is in flux.

As such, if CNN made a White in America series, what questions and topics would you like to see it explore?

Should the show focus on the pathologies of the white poor, middle class, and rich, with their high levels of drug use, sexual promiscuity, and the crisis of white masculinity in this country?

Alternatively, should the show explore how rich white men almost destroyed the country's economy and were enabled by other elites in doing so...we all know that if blacks or other people of color behaved as badly as the White CEO's that caused the Great Recession, a national conversation about "affirmative action" (and how such incompetents got their jobs) would spontaneously occur.

In the spirit of the Black in America series, I have some specific questions about White People that I am very curious about. Perhaps, some of our readers can offer up some answers for the benefit of the non-white public.

1. I have never heard of black or Hispanic parents letting their teenage, or even college age children, have sex in the house with former's knowledge. Moreover, I have acquaintances who happen to be white, whose mothers would bring them breakfast in bed after their girlfriend spent the night. Is this common?

2. I would like to know about colorism in the white community. White people have many issues surrounding their skin color. On one hand, there is an odd fascination and revulsion with dark skin. Many white folks like to get a tan; however, they have no sense of affinity with black or brown people. How is this reconciled? Also, the "darker" white ethnic groups in the United States have a reputation for being very hostile to people of color. What types of psychological neuroses are at work there?

3. The bodies of black women have been an object of prurient fascination, lust, wanting, and disgust when viewed through the White Gaze. See: Sarah Baartman, "The Hottentot Venus," many commercial hip hop videos, as well as some of the various sub-genres in contemporary pornography.

In the West, the black body has been an object of loathing by whites. It is, and has been, a site for racist attitudes to be (quite literally) projected upon. Thus, a puzzle.

How do white folks reconcile the popularity of white women who are now famous for having physical attributes which are poor imitations of idealized black women's bodies? See Kim Kardashian, a white women who is famous for having a butt that is none too special or particularly attractive.

4. There have been documentaries about black women's relationship with their hair. I would like to learn more about white women's hair. What are all of those products that white women, and some men, use to "style" it with? Who teaches you good white folks how to use all of those hair treatments? How much do white women spend at the hair salon? How often do you go?

Also, why do most white men go to the same place where white women get their haircuts? Black men are the product of a barbershop culture, this leads me to ask some questions about white (American) men's masculinity.

5. When you read about white teachers having sex with their students, is there any sense of racial shame? One rarely sees stories about black and brown folks doing such things. Moreover, when you read about white serial killers, white domestic terrorists, and white mass shooters who go crazy and kill large numbers of people at movie theaters, do you reflect about what is wrong in your own culture?

23 comments:

Dorcie said...

I just found out about this place today thanks to something I saw at another site. Wish I had heard of it before. As a white person who has been interested for a while now in the pathologies of white people, I found this entire post fascinating.

I completely agree with your statement that CNN's series is bad for the nation. The media very much ignores the issue of whiteness as a race.

As to your questions, I decided to give you some actual answers:

1. When I was in my early twenties, I brought a boyfriend over to my parent's house and we stayed in the house. My parents refused to let us sleep in the same room. I hear this same story from just about every white person I've ever met. However, I'm sure there are exceptions.

2. The tanning thing is a fascinating issue for me. I am pretty pasty white, and for years I felt the social pressure to be tanned, especially when I was in my late teens, early twenties. I still feel weird about it.

I have thought about this a lot, an I have come to the conclusion that it is not so much that we are obsessed with being tanned as we are obsessed with our entire bodies being one color. I think it makes us uncomfortable to be faced with the fact that we are a color when we see tan lines around our arms and neck. Therefore, there is an obsession to try and make sure that we are evenly colored over our entire bodies.

3. I am very much aware of the history of how Americans and Europeans have viewed the black body, especially the female black body, for centuries. As for the Kardashian thing, I am not really sure. Honestly, I don't get the obsession with her at all.

4. As for the hair thing, I am singularly unable to give you much help here. My mom actually did hair when I was a kid, however, likely due to my relationship with her, I never learned how to style my hair. Ever. From what I have seen, styling hair for girls is usually taught by the mother or female friends.

My husband and I go to a a salon at a mall to get our hair cut, and we both usually end up spending about $20.

As for the barbershop thing, I honestly had never thought about the fact that white men go to the same place white women go to today. I do know that that is not how it used to be. The salons white people went to used to be very much dominated by women, and men used to go to barbershops. I know my dad used to get his hair cut at a different place than my mom. I have a suspicion this likely changed around the 1980s when many more women started working full time, and so many more fathers likely had to start taking their kids to get a hair cut, and it was likely just easier to get their own done at the same time.

5. As for your last question, as you likely know, white people don't usually feel a sense of racial shame for anything. That is starting to change, though. Lately, I have been feeling very ashamed of the way white people act sometimes, and I often get the urge to apologize for them.

And, yes, a lot of us white people have definitely noticed that the mass shooters seemed to be all white. I definitely do think there is a correlation between the fact that white people, especially those in the middle class or higher, are not forced by society to deal with their strong emotions growing up due to the fact that white people have gotten a free ride in this country for so long. And so we mostly see young white men not only losing the ability to cope with life, but deciding to hurt as many people as possible as they go out. It's pretty sick stuff.

Anonymous said...

Also, why do most white men go to the same place where white women get their haircuts? Black men are the product of a barbershop culture, this leads me to ask some questions about white (American) men's masculinity.

The logic of this statement is completly flawed, how is there a correlation between masculinity and getting a haircut at the same place? Masculinity is a mix of physical and psychological traits. I'm not judging often this earlier, but obviously a black guy wrote this bad article.

chaunceydevega said...

@Anon. of course it is flawed. I am parroting and mirroring the "logic" which sees black and brown people as pathological. You have to get into the spirit of the game my friend.

@Dorcie. If I could give you a virtual sticker for being brave enough to share some of the inside knowledge I would :) The barbershop thing is fascinating on a number of levels. One, barbershops are dying as an institution.

White ethnics, hispanics, and blacks all cultivate, to varying degrees, a barbershop culture. Could it be something about "middle class" white identity? Or is it cultural and a tradition that is handed down--or not? For me going to the barbershop and being treated like a young adult and being allowed to listen to and participate in the adult conversations there was a big deal.

My childhood to young adult shop did not allow cursing, everyone had to be respectful of the older people there, the homeless people who would come by were treated with respect, and we had some important talks about the problems facing "the race." You don't get that at Supercuts.

the tan line thing never occurred to me. but if you are uniformly pale all over you would still not have tan lines, right?

Werner Herzog's Bear said...

Some of your questions here depend on social class. I grew up lower-middle class, which meant going to barber shops. I still do, after a hiatus while I was in Texas, mostly because white barbershops are a "safe space" for racism, misogyny and homophobia in many cases. My parents would never dream of letting me share a bed with a girlfriend in their house. Furthermore, like a lot of my white friends with my background, I prefer curvy, fleshy women. The fetishization of super thin women is a bourgeois obsession.

To take a stab at your challenge, I have questions that CNN ought to consider. Why do so many white suburban kids listen to gangsta rap but lock their car doors on the rare times they venture into the places described by the music they love? How are so many white people able to cheer so heartily for black athletes on their favorite sports teams while refusing to see black people as their equals?

chaunceydevega said...

@Werner. Your barbershop was like Gran Torino, huh? Maybe it is class because I know of more than a few white friends in college and high school whose parents would let them do that. I even got to spend the night in the same room with my girlfriend of the time. We are together almost six years so maybe her parents reasoned what the heck they are gonna get married. Was still mighty mighty weird.

I like your questions. We need a bigger data sample. Where are the other questioners and commenters?Perhaps they are scared? Touchy matters me thinks.

Anonymous said...

Vic78

What's with the entitlement? I've seen these kids argue with with seasoned college professors. There was one girl upset because she got a B in her class. She told her teacher she couldn't get into Georgetown Law due to her getting one B. As if she was just guaranteed acceptance there. I also remember someone upset that she couldn't get into Brown. She said some shit about Affirmitave Action keeping her out. I figured it was Brown's acceptance rate of less than 15%. That spoiled assed attitude is something to look into.

Why do they insist on getting into fights overseas? What's up with doing dumb shit in general outside of the US? Remember the boy that was caned for spray painting? They wanted Bill Clinton to talk them out of it. They beat his ass publicly. I'm guessing the boy wanted to make a statement since he didn't see any graphitti. It was somewhere in SE Asia.

Why in God's name is anyone butt chugging? Who's the genius that thought that was a good idea? What's up with the freaky shit? There was something a few years ago called autoerotic asphyxiation. For those that don't know it's when a person strangles one's self while mastubating. That needs some investigation. Lu

aspergum said...

My q--

If there's such a thing as black culture, then what is white culture?

Improbable Joe said...

Why is white culture on the whole boring and weak and fake? And then why does it insist on taking other cultures, stripping out anything dangerous or vital or real, and then repackaging it for white children and white adults who have the cultural sophistication of children? Hell, the upper and middle class white people even took the country and folk music of poor white people and repackaged it as bubblegum pablum.

And don't even get me started on the minstrel show that is "Larry the Cable Guy"!

Improbable Joe said...

Why is white culture on the whole boring and weak and fake? And then why does it insist on taking other cultures, stripping out anything dangerous or vital or real, and then repackaging it for white children and white adults who have the cultural sophistication of children? Hell, the upper and middle class white people even took the country and folk music of poor white people and repackaged it as bubblegum pablum.

And don't even get me started on the minstrel show that is "Larry the Cable Guy"!

Anonymous said...

As a working class male with sicilian grandparents, I often was made to feel inferior by upper-class whites. I say "made to feel" but they weren't successful, because many of their offspring were the dim bulbs in school, while we "inferiors" could write and do math and think logically.

Some questions about white culture: What is the deal with hunting for sport? I can see hunting something for food, but never understood the thrill of shooting a wolf or a lion just to see it die. Are there any black guys tromping around the woods looking to bag bears or other non-edible creatures?

- Buddy H.

CNu said...

The bodies of black women have been an object of prurient fascination, lust, wanting, and disgust when viewed through the White Gaze. See: Sarah Baartman, "The Hottentot Venus," many commercial hip hop videos, as well as some of the various sub-genres in contemporary pornography.

In the West, the black body has been an object of loathing by whites. It is, and has been, a site for racist attitudes to be (quite literally) projected upon. Thus, a puzzle.

How do white folks reconcile the popularity of white women who are now famous for having physical attributes which are poor imitations of idealized black women's bodies?


CDV - racist or innocent?

chaunceydevega said...

@cnu. funny, both, neither? i am of two minds this week, with all of the info that just dropped about data mining, police scanning license plates, the military manipulating public opinion, the reports on the u.s. economy and the rise of china, and other matters such complaints seem trite. i got a case of cnu's today i guess.

nomad said...

"all of the info that just dropped" ???
gotta link?

chaunceydevega said...

@nomad. you and others likely knew it already, i have read about some of it, but not following the manipulation of public opinion as closely as I should have been given my interests.

nomad said...

its been some ominous stuff happenin thats for sure. nothing would surprise me.

nomad said...

Speaking of manipulation of public opinion, this Fiscal Grift negotiation is a prime example. Notice how the argument is framed. Essentially its how much to cut "entitlements"; not whether. Indeed the term entitlement itself is stigmatized to evoke the notion of undeserving. I mean just the notion of creating the cliff itself is diabolically manipulative. "Boss, whatsay we drive on over to dat dere fiscal cliff?" Incredibly we get so-called independent news people subscribing a the frame of reference in which the only question is how much to cut the safety net. Like Gwen Ifil for example.

http://riverdaughter.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/personal-power-dynamics-a-refresher/

Lissen to what the one percenters and the black misleaders have planned for us.

http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/majority-report-elites-destroying-medicare

The fix is in as you can plainly see...unlesss...

adamabroad said...

1. From personal experience, no. In my first serious relationship, my girlfriend's father tolerated me being over and doing whatever we were doing together in her bedroom, but it took over two years, and me being a model boyfriend in the parents' presence, before her mom (her parents were divorced) would let me share a bed with her in their house. And since that was after the family had just driven back from a camping trip in the Midwest, she assumed (correctly) that my girlfriend was going to get into bed and collapse. Sad Adam.

2. My thoughts: "Going To See the Man" is an accurate (albeit extreme, triggering, and mind-searing) depiction of the role of trauma in resolving the conflict between ego and id.

The white main character fantasizes that the black people he knows will accept that his racist sensibilities are the right ones for society. This is probably coming from his id, because Freud theorized that people invented fantasies so that their ids could achieve release when their egos told them that release wasn't possible. And the early experience of watching a mob burn and mutilate a black man to death, with the approval of the only authority figure he had, permanently set the idea in the main character's mind that black people existed to be weaker, and he as a white man existed to be stronger.

There's no need for fantasy if the id can always be satisfied at the expense of a black person. So when the main character has his impotence at the start, he has to deal with reality - he is not always stronger, or sexually ready, even with his power - and he uses fantasy, and the memory of the mutilated man's genitals being seized, to imagine that he is so powerful he can even seize sexual power from the people he imagines are weaker than him.

tl;dr: IMO all humans want to satisfy their desires, racism has made it easier for white people to do it than black, which leads id and ego to create a defense (whites are superior), and that leads to increasing fantasizing when whites are obviously not superior.

3) I don't know. I was out of the loop before I left the US when it comes to women's bodies in popular American culture. It's probably something to do with the fantasizing/denial of seizing sexual potency I talked about in 2), but I really don't think about this enough to have any opinion at all.

4) Similarly, I don't know. The most "treatment" I ever got from a stylist at a salon was styling gel, and there wasn't much teaching involved, it just got rubbed in and I was told what to do (put it in, about a quarter-size dollop, after towel-drying). The haircut cost me $32, $40 with a tip (this was LA).

Bear in mind you're talking to a guy who was raised near UMASS-Amherst, a place where social structures of gender and ethnic identity get deconstructed literally from childhood onward (not always perfectly, but people are trying). I can conform well enough in areas where most people don't do those sorts of things too often, but it feels like play-acting. I don't feel an emotional connection to any sort of barbershop or other thing that reads culturally as exclusively masculine.

Steven Augustine said...

@nomad


"Speaking of manipulation of public opinion, this Fiscal Grift negotiation is a prime example."

Yeah, the point is always, in these little brink-of-doom skits the prez and the congress put on, to scare Duh Masses so badly that they'll "agree" to anything... and the "anything" is always the *same* thing: more of the wealth of Duh Masses transferred to Duh Massas. Or, that is, the rate of transfer goes up a notch or two.

I guess they figured (roughly 200 years ago) that if They didn't call themselves Counts, Dukes, Barons, Princes, Kings and Queens, we'd be more likely to lie down for it! "Let them eat cake... or, uh, Mac and Cheese!"

Hey, the system is so refined, we have no idea what The King even looks like! They learned a lot from 1789...


nomad said...

"Fiscal Grift". I stole that term. Appropriately. I mean, its not like they didn't know this was going to happen when they set up the fiscal cliff. A effing cattle prod. I mean, who do they think they're fooling....Oh. Right. But anyway, its manipulation. So simple it aint even a game of chess. Its checkers. But the sheeple and their MSM shepherds will fall for it everytime. "It's not important whose idea it was to drive to the fiscal cliff; the important thing is to cut entitlements." If only those who helped put Obama in office would criticize him (and the Democrats and the other black misleaders) when they are in the process of selling us out. That's what I hate about Obamites. They think their work is done after they've put him in office. No. Now you got to stop him from rolling back the New Deal. Your work has just begun. Warm it up. The boys are waiting.

Longhaired White Boy said...

WHITE PEOPLE HAIR:

As my name indicates, I am a white boy with long hair. White women (and I) use a variety of products with their hair, chiefly shampoo, conditioner, detangler spray (for brushing), and hairspray (to make it stiff and stay down -- very flammable). White men mostly use shampoo and hair gel to make it stick up in spikes or a pompadour. I mostly stick with shampoo and conditioner. Shampoo first to wash, conditioner to make it soft and nice. Even when I had short hair I found gel to be disgusting because it hardens and feels crunchy, especially after a long sweaty day.

White women can go to the salon several times a month, annually or anything in between. It all depends on the desired hairstyle. Some white women have a more "butch" short style that requires constant cutting, especially if they do weird things to maintain bangs or "layers" or any number of above-the-shoulder short haircuts. Women who dye their hair also have routine appointments with their hairdresser, especially older women who use henna to keep from showing gray hair. Prices vary, and you can spend as much as you want getting your hair done. White women with long hair generally do not go to the hair salon except when attending special occasions like Prom and weddings (as a bride or a bridesmaid), which involve elaborate braiding and tying of hair and take a long time to prepare. It also costs a pretty penny. White men go to barbershops the same way you do and have developed their own little subculture there. Barbershops are for men. Hairdressers or hair salons are generally for women. Barbers and hairdressers receive much of the same education, but apply it differently. Men do men's hair, women do women's hair. Some barbershops have female barbers or are otherwise unisex just because. Some mothers take their sons to the salon because it is where they feel comfortable. Any barber or hairdresser can take care of either gender's hair, but tend to appeal to different markets.

White girls are taught how to take care of their hair by their mothers or aunties or grandmothers. There is an entire female subculture dedicated to girls doing each others' hair to practice new styles. I was unfortunately unable to participate in this subculture. My mother and my sister helped me with my hair, especially brushing and braiding, until I could do it myself. Braiding your own hair is very hard and girls do not generally do it until they are in junior high. Brushing your own hair comes earlier, but having your mama brush your hair is a special parent-child interaction to express affection and care. I will always prefer someone else to braid my hair. Some styles of braiding are very difficult to do by yourself, like so-called "French braids".

Is there anything else I can help you with or you don't understand from what has just been said?

Any of my fellow palefaces want to correct my perceptions?

I have long, thick hair that always took forever to cut and grew shaggy quickly, but enjoy having long hair that is thick and beautiful. Learning about long hair has been an interesting journey. I hope one day to assist any daughters I may have in appreciating their hair.

chaunceydevega said...

@Longhaired. Thanks for sharing. I think that white folks may spend just as much as black women on their hair. Am I wrong? Where is the documentary on white folks' hair days?

My hair is easy to maintain. Some hair lotion and shampoo. Twenty bucks at the barber every so many weeks. I thought I had it hard ;)

Steven Augustine said...

speaking of hair

Anonymous said...

Bust illegal sex crime brothels in Raleigh north carolina, boston and chicago. Ban Rhianna from the airwaves. Send her back to the islands to live in the squalor she came from. Stop buying into her lure, stop paying for her sex fetish, drug addiction and her pimping of women of color around the globe. Bust black male pimps selling under age girls into sex crime slavery. WAKE UP BLACK NATION. the real revolution begins now.