Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Chauncey DeVega Says: Celebrate and Praise these Great White Inventions

A quick thought on the White in White History

White History Month is here and I am so happy! in fact, I am tingling with delight as I think about my first entry for this auspicious event. First, we need to clarify some terms. "White" is different from white. The former speaks to the relationship between power and race--the unstated assumptions that those who are White are by definition normal, are privileged (but won't generally admit it nor confront it), and whose race is invisible, i.e. it just isn't something to be thought of and "race" is a category which by definition describes the Other, and not White people. Thus, the label/field/disciple/category of whiteness (and whiteness studies) when folk want to critically interrogate White racial identity.

white is a bit different. white is simply a factual observation as in "those are some white people." But, they often overlap, and yes race is "socially constructed" so there is malleability to the category. Ultimately, there are black, White people, there are White black people, and there are folk of all color that have white/White tastes--like Zora and me, but not Gordon, as he is an "authentic" negro.

As you read our White History posts every Wednesday keep these qualifiers in mind. You should also reflect on one of my favorite quotes: "Treason to Whiteness is loyalty to humanity."

There are so many White inventions. There are also lots of white inventions as well. Since White folk basically invented the modern world, and all of its goodies, I have a hard time knowing where to begin. So here is my first take (and not my last) on some important inventions worthy of being honored during White History Month.

Invention number 1. The Flowbee.

Some of you may be too young to remember the miracle that was the Flowbee. Before SuperCuts--that wonderful place where white people, as well as black folks who don't know to go to a barbershop (or were adopted by white parents) go to get their haircuts--white people invented an attachment that would turn a vacuum cleaner into a pair of barber clippers. You would place an attachment on the end of the vacuum cleaner hose, set the length which you wanted your hair cut, and vacuum away. The Flowbee was perfect for the quintessential white haircut, "the bowl." As a black person, and I guess this went for Jews as well, I was always jealous that I couldn't use the Flowbee. My hair was happy to be nappy and those tight little knots and curls of hair were incompatible with the original Flowbee. One couldn't contain my glee when the new and improved Flowbee was unleashed onto the marketplace. Its tagline: "the Flowbee now works on Afro Hair!" Damn, I was so excited because I could finally cut my hair like white people, and I was one step closer to "passing" because of it. The flowbee is so important to the lifestyles of white people that there are online communities devoted to it, and the flowbee has subsequently been the subject of much scholarly research and examination.

Invention number 2. Febreze

Febreze is one of the greatest gifts which white people have ever given the world because it allows you to wear dirty, smelly, stinky clothes over and over again. In fact, did you know that Febreze is so popular that many consider "febreze" to be a proper verb? Undoubtedly, this practical and inspired gift to mankind has roots in Europe where a whole continent committed itself to covering up their unclean ways, all around funkiness, and history of poor hygiene (random story: did you know that European travel narratives from the 18th and 19th centuries are full of erotic praise for the hygiene of those "heathen" "savage" women who unlike Europeans at the time, didn't have stinky punanies? Those white Imperialists loved getting with those nice smelling brown, black, red, and yellow women...and who can blame them?) Yes, I love me some Febreze. Did you know I once wore a sweater for a month and simply febrezed it everyday despite the fact that is smelled of smoke and sweat? Ahh, the wonders of white technology.

Invention Number 3. Marshmallow Fluff

I have never seen a non-white person eat this stuff. Growing up, and to this day, I have white friends who wax nostalgic about eating this foul marshmallow food substitute. I remember growing up and seeing white kids at lunch with Fluff sandwiches. As I reflect, perhaps it is a white version of the mustard or ketchup sandwich that many poor black people wax nostalgic about eating when they were kids? The curious should follow this link for a history of the foul, white substance. Apparently, Fluff is so prevalent as a staple of the white diet, that some public officials want to see it banned. From the Boston Globe: "The escalating war on junk food in schools has targeted a new enemy -- that gooey, sugary, and often irresistible sandwich spread known to children everywhere as Fluff. Outraged that his son was served peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff sandwiches at a Cambridge elementary school, state Senator Jarrett T. Barrios, a Democrat, said he will offer an amendment to a junk-food bill this week that would severely limit the serving of marshmallow spreads in school lunch programs statewide." Thank goodness someone is taking steps to confront Fluff and its negative impact on white youth. Because frankly, for the same reasons I would never let my daughter play with a hula hoop, there is just something a bit wrong with all that white gooey stuff coming out of our children's mouths.


Anonymous said...

I always heard of marshmallow fluff, but didn't know it was real,does that also mean that chees whip is also real, you know, that cheese that comes in a can and can be sprayed on crackers?

chaunceydevega said...

Cheese whip is in fact real and I think it may actually fit the criteria of a "white" invention, perhaps we will add it to the list. What should the entry say?

gordon gartrelle said...

I have had cheese whiz before. And yes, it's disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, marshmallow fluff or pickled pig's feet? Or turkey necks, steamed collards, gizzards, et al.

I'm going to have to go with the fluff.

Don't even get me started on grape soda, cheetos, grip-n-sips, kool-aid, malt liquor or menthol cigarettes - just nasty.

Oh, and your tastes are neither "white" or "black"; you're either civilized or uncivilized. All of the items mentioned above, including the fluff and cheese wiz, are for uncivilized tastes. There is a world culture, not limited to the "American" culture (what ever that is); where good taste is good taste anywhere in the world. Crack open some MD 20/20 in Madagascar and everyone would consider you uncivilized. Crack open a 1940 bottle of Godet and you'd have the most worldly, civilized taste in the room.

Anonymous said...

Fun fact: They have to dye cheese wiz cheese-color because it comes out clear. Clear!