Opinion: Destroying the concept of whiteness

The concept of whiteness as an ethnic category is definitely controversial, regardless of where it is discussed. It is often at the heart of some of the most heated, contentious political discourse. With that being said, I do not think prog­ress can be achieved unless whiteness itself is eliminated.

We often take for granted the fact that things like race are modern con­cepts. Furthermore, the boundaries between ethnicities and cultures are ever-shifting, and have been largely al­tered, even in recent history. Up until very recently, groups such as Italians and Jews were not considered “white.” Even in states like Washington, racially restrictive covenants — housing restric­tions based solely on race or ethnicity — persisted into the ’90s. Areas such as Mercer Island forbade Jews from taking up residence, and large swaths of the state refused housing to African-Amer­icans and Chinese-Americans, among many other minority groups.

As more and more groups, such as Italians, became assimilated into the self-homogenizing label “white,” ethnic groups were robbed of their histories — robbed of their cultures. When mem­bers of extremist groups such as the Alt-Right proclaim their frustration at not being able to be proud of their “Eu­ropean heritage,” they have a fundamen­tal misunderstanding about what “whiteness” is. Minorities aren’t keeping them from connecting to their heri­tages: their own “whiteness” is respon­sible for it. As long as they cling desper­ately to their title and position as “whites,” they will forever be denied access to their ancestry and culture.

This is why I believe we need to utterly destroy the concept of “white­ness.” It needs to be broken down, dissected and dispersed. Italians, Irish, French, etc. should all be re­moved from the homogenous cate­gory of “white,” and placed back into categories founded on a shared his­tory and culture. People who were trapped by “whiteness” can be proud of — and connect to — their actual cultural heritages, rather than trying to find meaning in a definition born out of bigotry and oppression, as well as the suppression of their own his­tories and customs. Maybe if “white­ness” is done away with, some of America’s problems relating to racial identity could be solved.


Lucas Waggoner

Lucas is a PPE major in University of Washington Tacoma, and he is graduating with a Bachelor's in philosophy. His primary interests are philosophy, politics, and law. He is currently working as a teacher at a secondary school while preparing to attend law school immediately following graduation.