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?