Unpacking the Importance of The Whiteness Project

I rarely double up on posts during the week, and I just wrote pretty great review of this month’s issue of Ms. Marvel [if I do say so myself], but I felt the need to spotlight a little something called The Whiteness Project and field a few more opinions from you about the entire thing-

I chose to feature the same guy The Guardian did, because how could I not?

I chose to feature the same guy The Guardian did, because how could I not?

The Whiteness Project is, to let their About page speak for itself:

“a multiplatform investigation into how Americans who identify as ‘white’ experience their ethnicity.”

This investigation is carried out through interviews with White Americans, some of whom you can see in the image up above. Speaking to the camera, and consequently us [due to their use of the Interrotron camera technique], these men and women share how they relate to and understand their ethnicity and what it means in today’s United States.

wtfI came across the site itself via my friend Paul Chin, who was calling attention to it on Facebook. The response was just about what you’d expect [see right]. I mean, that man up top isn’t representative of all the others, but he also doesn’t exactly stand out with his opinions. There’s another person wearing scrubs who straight-up says: “I just don’t buy into the nonsense about discrimination.” Suffice to say, it gets pretty uncomfortable [or laughable, depending on how you react to these sorts of things].

I mean, take into account the woman below [and please keep in mind that you should be watching these for yourselves to get the full effect]:


Because of her tattoos.

In her interview she lets us know that she is discriminated against pretty much in the same way non-White people are. Sure, it’s self-imposed, but she knows what it’s like to be judged on the basis of her appearance. I can’t properly put her logic into words without retyping it verbatim, so like I said, check it out

What’s important to remember is that in the midst of all of these pretty heinously incorrect assertions, like “I’ve never received any privileges from being White,” there’s a good amount of confusion. The truth is that many of these people have never had to think about their ethnicity, with one woman describing Whiteness as “a chair in the room that’s always just been there, like you don’t take the time to notice it you just always know it’s there.” Those of us who live in the West are surrounded by a culture that has normalized Whiteness, making it the standard. It’s actually fascinating when these people are forced to define what it is about them that makes them “the norm”.

That’s all to say that as much fun as it is [and it is, to an extent] to poke fun at the ignorance that’s put on display by a good number of these interviews, the existence of this platform is painfully important. These men and women aren’t being allowed to voice their opinion to be mocked, but to legitimately share how they think and feel. This in turn is a resource other White people can tap into, asking themselves the same questions and ultimately determining their own view on what their race means to their place in the world.

That’s my take on the Whiteness Project, and one that’s more or less shared by Steven W. Thrasher over at The Guardian [whose picture looks like he’s had it up to here]. What I’m particularly interested in is what you, White or otherwise, have to say about it. Is the Whiteness Project comedy gold? A waste of time and resources? A damning portrayal of one ethnicity and its views on the rest? Is it all of the above and more?

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