“Dreaming of a Self Beyond Whiteness and Isolation” is primarily about the boundaries of race as well as social boundaries. The author demonstrates this by talking about the nation-state, and the formation of national boundaries and national identities. He also discusses the Dred Scott case, wherein the boundaries of citizenship (that the government could decide who did and who did not fall under the rights granted under citizenship) were further withheld from blacks. He then goes into a discussion about how race and racism came about via the need for reliable slaves who could be classified into being slaves by destiny (they were less than human). He suggests that we better understand the underpinnings of individual and social whiteness, in order to end the performance of whiteness.
“6 Reasons We Need to Dismantle the Model Minority Myth of Those ‘Hard-Working’ Asians” is about how the model minority myth, despite seeing to be a positive stereotype about Asian people, is harmful to Asians and is used to “protect institutionalized white supremacy and validate anti-black racism.” She suggests that this myth only serves to divide people of color; that is, it uses Asian groups as a means to prove that black people deserve what they have, because if they wanted to do better they would be able to by pointing to Asian people as the example. Her suggestions involves the individual doing reflection on his or her own privilege, power, and identity; and having conversations about these issues with friends, family, and loved ones. She suggests building up communities and building bridges, as opposed to using stereotypes against each other.
“Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid” is about how segregation of schools has continued up into present day, and in some cases is worsening (some schools were once forcibly integrated, but have since been resegregating). He uses a few different schools as examples. These schools are located in ghettos, serve primarily children of poor people (typically poor black people; white children are notable because there are so few to none of them in these schools), and are in disrepair. The programs at these schools are focused around teaching automatons; they expect the kids in these schools to become factory workers, or otherwise to become menial workers. There is little to nothing in place to help these children escape poverty. In contrast, Kozol mentions how rich white parents, who place their children in schools that can cost $30,000 per year, question how paying more into the education of poor children can make a difference in terms of kids completing high school or getting good grades. His suggestions are, of course, being willing to pay more into these poor schools who are so far below the schools white children attend, and doing what it takes to see that these schools receive fair amounts of funding.
The concept of whiteness promotes educational disparity among the so-called races by putting a higher value on white children than on black children or other less valued races. We begin to accept that black children are somehow destined to just do poorly; we accept that it is not the issue of poor schools, bad curriculum, or teachers who have not received the proper training, but instead that these children have done bad and will continue to do bad simply because that is who they are. The concept of whiteness includes the subtle belief that black children not only naturally do worse than white children, but that they are not important enough to receive the same benefits as white children. Whiteness promotes a status quo where legislators and citizens step on the backs of poor black children in order to give a better education to white children.
Based on the “Still Separate” article, I didn’t really see much about inclusion being promoted by the educational system or how disparity between schools is addressed proactively. Instead, what I got was that during the Civil Rights movement these things were addressed – black kids and white kids were integrated into schools, effort was made towards equalizing the quality of education each public school received – but now things are slipping back to how they were. Even if there is no actual segregation laws, and effort is put into not saying things outright that would indicate racism, there is a definite gap. In the article, there was a definite sense that it’s the elephant in the room for white people. Those who have to deal with the schools (via employment or as a student) say it outright – white kids wouldn’t have this problem – while white people look at the issue and declare that they don’t understand why these schools keep doing so badly. At the end of the day, these schools simply do not have the same resources as those with white schools, to the point that they don’t even have the proper number of bathrooms, or mold-free walls, or even roofs that don’t have holes in them. They don’t have the same selection of extra-curricular activities, or even access to AP classes or other classes that might help them get to college.
Asian countries (and parents) put a higher amount of pressure on their children when it comes to having good grades, which is what has helped to build the stereotype that Asian people naturally do better in school. Not only that, but Asian immigrants into the US are typically allowed in because they have some sort of performance of ability or skills that we need, which further increases the stereotype that they are smarter. By the grace of these stereotypes, if Asians are white, then in terms of ‘smartness’ whites do not measure up. However, because the western world has been built around the concept of whiteness being best, it is distasteful to the hegemony to give up that power to anyone else.
So, Asians have to be included in the white category in order for that category to continue to be at the top. A hegemony does not give way to another by anything other than a forced shift; it will seek to continue to stay where it is. So it is with whiteness. Whiteness unconsciously seeks to remain within the host of benefits it has accrued for itself. Everyone wants to not need to struggle to do well – so it makes sense that Asians would gravitate towards being included within whiteness as opposed to being without (it would take conscious, prolonged effort to supplant whiteness as the dominant race). This is why the articles about the model minority myth call for proactive thought and action towards dismantling this unconscious (or conscious) way of thinking.
The approach of focusing on dismantling whiteness is different from previous attempts due to the fact that it is not looking at the overall race concept. Nor is it trying to completely dismantle looking at people as being different – instead, it is trying to kill the snake by chopping off its head.
When considering race, I don’t think this would necessarily be any more successful than any of the other efforts. Instead, I believe that in order to change the destiny of separation by race that we have placed upon ourselves, we need to first address the issue from the bottom up: teaching children that everyone matters equally. Not just by what we say, but by what we do, and what tools we use. “Skin tone” should not just refer to white skin. Picture books should have protagonists with a variety of skin tones. Historic figures, role models, and even guests brought in during asseblies should be from a variety of backgrounds and skin colors. World history should be taught from a broader perspective than just Greeks being the end-all be-all to civilization and European conquerors being seen as the epitome of civilization. Finally, there should be more historical and modern heroes focused on a wider range of backgrounds and cultures.
I came into this class thinking that I understood my own racial biases. I didn’t realize the depth of my own ethnocentricity. I didn’t arrive at that point by my own conscious desires, but by a process of learning that started when I was a very young child and continued up through adulthood. Dismantling whiteness is just another way to pick at the symptoms instead of addressing the cause: we only have adults who succumb to the hegemony because we’ve taught them to be that way. We need to stop unconsciously teaching children that whiteness means better.