Posts tagged ‘whiteness studies’

Regional/Cultural Divisions in North America

There are various ways people have tried to divide North America based on cultural settlement, economic activity, etc. Though really, the biggest division tends to be between the urban and rural areas! But if you’re curious here are some books, they are in reverse chronological order. I have only read the 9 Nations one. I think what is a lot more useful, would be to research the history and culture of the particular area you live in. (Above link compares these various books)

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard (2011) This sounds like it oversimplifies and leaves out a lot about later immigration.

American Colonies: the Settling of North America by Alan Taylor (2001) This one covers all the European colonial powers, so- Dutch, British, French, Spanish. Might be of interest.

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (1989) This one really goes into cultural differences between early British settlements, and is definitely on my to-read list!

The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau (1981) I think this has similar problems to the Eleven Nations book

Immigration & Assimilation from European Ethnic to “Whiteness”

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev (this one I have actually read- very good, though depressing!)

Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Special Sorrows: the Diasporic Imaginations of Irish, Polish & Jewish Immigrants in the United States by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants & the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White by David Roediger

**Good White People: the Problem with Middle Class White Anti-Racism by Shannon Sullivan (this sounds very good!)

After reading  reviews I would NOT recommend these-

Are Italians White? How Race is Made in America- the reviewer notes that the authors only compare Italian-Americans with African-Americans, not with Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Latinos or other groups that might have more similarities. It does not take into consideration discrimination that did take place against Italians, and especially Sicilians.

How Jews Became White Folks by Karen Brodkin- apparently the problem with this one is that it does not discuss the background of anti-Semitism in Europe much, and is better at discussing gender issues than racial issues. There are plenty of other books about Jewish American identity & assimilation, so I would look elsewhere.

Note

Please share if you have any opinions on these books or additional ones that may be of interest. There is most certainly *much more* out there to read about various cultural influences in the U.S. and Canada- I am sorting through stuff about European immigration due to my own interests and focus, so this is not to exclude anyone else!

I have started reading “A Different Mirror- A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki which is quite good so far.

Warning- For anyone who reads this, and decides I am “anti-white people”, “racist against white people”, “anti-American” etc. and feels the need to trumpet this, your comments will be deleted.

August 11, 2015 at 10:34 pm Leave a comment

White Deviance, Pagan Angst

Earlier for one of the “D” posts for the Pagan Blog Project, I planned on writing about how the Neo-Pagan movement is, in part a manifestation of white deviance. I realized though that I did not want assume knowledge on the part of the readers about sociology or Critical Race Theory, the lens through which I’m approaching this.  Social deviance is a sociological concept- it means straying from social norms of what is considered social acceptable and expected behavior in a given culture.

Critical Race Theory, and its offshoot of whiteness studies, views race as a social construction and seeks to critique and deconstruct race as a social category. Blaargh- see I can’t define it very well, so go read the above link!

There really is no one concept of “whiteness” or “white culture”- it will become apparent from reading the blog Stuff White People Like that is reflective of a certain kind of white people- it’s a pretty spot-on description of Unitarians actually! Who society considers white and who gets white privilege has changed over time- at one time only English Protestants were considered white, but as various European ethnic groups assimilated and become upwardly mobile they became “whitened”.

Still there are typically standards in a given social context of what a “proper white person” looks, dresses, acts etc- middle or upper-class, educated, heterosexual (or “straight-acting” homosexual), cis-gendered (non-transgender) Christian (or atheist/agnostic/secular in some contexts)  White people who do not conform to these norms are stigmatized as white trash, rednecks or with various other labels, and people of color who do not fit into these norms are typically stigmatized even more.

Anyway, since most whites have at most a symbolic ethnicity– a watered down identity based on nostalgia for the Old Country, certain foods, holidays etc. if they feel unsatisfied or not included by dominant forms of white culture they create their own subcultures to identify with- some are more deviant, others more accepted. Skaters, goths, punks, hippies, geeks, GLBTQ+ subcultures and so forth.

When people of color pursue an interest in mostly white subculture- even one that prides itself on being progressive, they frequently encounter racism. Because whiteness is such an unexamined “norm”, Pagans, geeks et al. often do not realize that they are pursuing a different way of being white, thereby excluding non-whites with interests in those subcultures.

Being a hippie or being a “bohemian” both in the United States and Europe has frequently gone along with appropriating aspects of Black and indigenous cultures- particularly in music, dress and spirituality. While these white deviant subcultures tend be seen as threatening to the white dominated social structure at first they are often co-opted by the very institutions the white deviants are trying to reject.

Instead of truly critiquing, examining and challenging the dominant power structure, white deviant subcultures end up becoming the rebellious children of Big White Daddy- be it of the government, business, media, church. We give up the privileges that come with conformity but are shocked when we are mistreated by society. If the social cost comes too high we may go back home to Big White Daddy. And he might give us crap for not going to church, or having the right job, or sexual behavior or hobbies or what have you. But we still have that option- our brothers and sisters of color do not. (Nor do our trans* friends who can’t “pass” as cisgender, or our disabled friends that can’t
“pass” as able-bodied or neurotypical.) That is the profoundly alienating contradiction that they must face- can they really trust these rebels?

When we talk about getting Paganism to be accepted in the “mainstream”- are we really unconsciously saying “I want the cultural definition of acceptable whiteness to include Paganism”? How do we instead, make examining and challenging whiteness a part of our Paganisms?

April 18, 2014 at 1:05 am 2 comments


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