Thursday, February 4, 2010

Insurgent Whiteness? Move Along, Ain't No Coloured Folk Here: The Conspicuous Whiteness of Vanity Fair's Hollywood 2010 Cover Revealed


White people create the dominant images of the world and don't quite see that they construct the world in their image...As a hue, white is both the combination of all colors and no color at all. As a racial designation, white describes people whose skin color is not literally white--and because "white" skin presumes the absence of ethnicity, whites rarely consider themselves racially marked. Since "whites are everywhere in representation... they seem not to be represented to themselves as whites." Rather than its weakness, however, Dyer claims such paradoxes offer whiteness its representational power, inoculating it against stereotypes by suggesting that whites are both infinite in variety yet representative of humanity per se." At the level of racial representation, in other words, whites are not of a certain race, they're just the human race.


Insurgent whiteness. I may have coined a phrase. Whiteness is constructed as normality, privilege, and property. It is the unattainable. Whiteness is taken for granted by its owners as a thing desired by those who do not possess it. In working through the complexities of whiteness, please allow me a Socratic moment:

As my first sentence implies, can whiteness alternatively work to resist what is perceived as an imagined, dominant norm in Barack Obama's America?

In the Tea Party, Pat Buchanan, Palin populism that rides headstrong over Conservative America at present, is there some signal that whiteness--the white soul--as imagined by its owners and practitioners (this word is intentional as whiteness is both possession and practice) is under siege?

Is the cover of Vanity Fair a signal once more that whiteness represents beauty unreflected upon, where while a black man, and black first family may reign supreme, that whiteness still trumps all?

To turn a phrase, does whiteness Strike Back? Is insurgent whiteness fighting back against black and brown beauty-power as embodied by Barack Obama and the demographic changes that his presidency may in fact signal now and going forward?

1 comment:

lurker said...

And they're all the same kind of white, for goodness sake.

As a white person who is half Italian (and takes after that side - curly hair, golden complexion, curvy), pictures like that make me feel not "white."