The Matter of Whiteness

The recent bill-board campaign by the British National Party in London for the Mayor’s election,  putting ‘Londoners First’ showing a working white class family – semi obese and content brought to mind Richard Dyers book entitled ‘White’.

In the culture of ‘White is Right’ – where the white majority feel they have to fight back to regain their whiteness and britishness, non-whites are beginning to feel the backlash – recently local council’s are doing away with specialist ethnic community groups in favour of ‘services for all’ and in the process losing vital knowledge necessary to combat racism, especially that of a feminist perspective.

Dyer’s ‘White’ seems somewhat time sensitive. Published in 1997 by Routledge as part of their ‘Cultural/studies/Race and Ethnicity’, much of the writing remains relevant – although it could do with a re-visit by Dyer. The publishers state that ‘white people are not literally or symbolically white. Yet they are called white. What does this mean? In Western media, white take up the position of ordinariness, not a particular race, just the human race… while racial representation is central to the organisation of the contemporary world, white people remain a largely unexamined category in sharp contrast to the many studies of images of ‘black and Asian peoples.’ 

Richard Dyer in his chapter entitled ‘The matter of Whiteness’ says that ‘this book is about the racial imagery of white people – not the images of other races in white cultural production, but the latter’s imagery of the white people themselves. This is not merely to fill a gap in the analytic literature, but because there is something at stake in looking at, or continuing to ignore, white racial imagery. As long as race is something only applied to non-white peoples, as long as white people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm. Other people are raced, we are just people.’

 

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