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January 28, 2009

"Seeing White in Black"--a Fungible Concept

Dr. Kafi Kumasi, of the Library and Information Science Department at Indiana University, recently spoke to a UM SI/MIX audience in an expansion of her dissertation "Seeing White in Black," a narrative of 10 African-American participants (14-16 years old) in the Circle of Voices Book Club at the Monroe, Indiana, Public Library. The major points of the discussion involved Whiteness Theory and Double Consciousness Theory. Tension and challenges were employed as integral, constructive components of these racially-centered book discussions to tease out social and cultural emotions and impressions.
Dr. Kumasi quoted Audre Lord (librarian/poet/activist) who believed that librarianship should be part of social and cultural perspectives.

Using Dr. Kumasi’s thoughts and presentation as a jumping off point, it occurs to me that the Whiteness Theory can be used as an allegory for other ethnic marginalized groups. This theory encompasses the concept that whites hold privileges automatically that they don’t even realize they have and that whites are not considered a race but are defined by their not being one of the marginalized races that are subordinate to them. This theory, by another name, can, I think, readily be applied to other groups as well. For example, we might propose: “Seeing Christianity through Judaism”. This would work perfectly well on several levels: sociologically, psychologically, and biblically. The theory of double-consciousness is similarly fungible. As an example, the Germans and Italians of Jewish ancestry often did not think of themselves primarily as Jews until they were so defined dictatorially by Hitler and Mussolini, respectively. In similar fashion, when the “Racial Laws” took hold, there was the sense of being both a citizen of one’s native country and a member of a subordinate special group, in effect fitting the theory of a double consciousness. I think that these two theories might also be applicable to various other populations with which I am less familiar—the Hutus and the Tutsis, perhaps, as well as most other marginalized and therefore disadvantaged ethnic groups?

Posted by schnitzr at January 28, 2009 07:20 AM


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