I haven’t read Sakai’s piece, but this critique is deeply flawed. It enshrines the notion of “whiteness” by assuming that anyone involved in the settlement of America who was “white” is thereby guilty, and any of the real situations in which they were found are to be ignored. This is glaringly obvious in the demonization of the Irish, who were themselves treated as subhumans on arrival, and in the pretense that somehow “indentured servitude” wasn’t “really” slavery (it was).
The rich abused the poor. That is the salient and constant reality of history. Whether the rich or poor were white or not does not alter the equation. This does not enable anyone to excuse any white who participated in genocide, but nor does it excuse any black who did so (e.g., “Buffalo Soldiers”). It also does not enable us to ignore the oppression of someone who is “white” based on that categorization, which is what this critique blatantly does.
This writer is as racist as anyone being critiqued, and should be roundly condemned as such. The very premise that there is a valid category of people called “people of color” enshrines the notion of “whiteness”. White racism involves considering that “whites” are a distinct and separate category from all other humans. It divides humanity into “white” and “non-white”, and declares that “white” is superior.
To accept that we can refer to all “non-whites” as “people of color” does not correct this error, it only replaces one of the terms with a feel-good pseudo-radical alternative. Now it’s “people of color” and “whites”, making “whites” still a distinct category from all other humanity. Rubbish!
It is rubbish in continuing the racist separation of “whites” from all others, and it is rubbish in that due to genome analysis we now know that there is no such division of “whites” from the rest of humanity, based on biology. For example, “whites” are more closely related to Native Americans than are Africans. Biology reveals that in fact the only group which can be genetically set apart from all other humanity are the Khoisan.
And one would also have to wonder, if “whites” are not “people of color”, then of what color are they? They are not white, in fact. They are brown, sometimes reddish, but never white. The background of this page is white. No humans are.
A truly revolutionary perspective would emphasis class, wealth, and power. The disparaging characterizations of the lower classes have not been much different, whether the lower class was “black”, Native or Irish. Anyone doubting this should study the pronouncements made for centuries by the English regarding the Irish, and for that matter, the Scots. And study Irish history. The best word to describe the social system imposed by the English there is APARTHEID.
I stand in solidarity with all oppressed peoples. I am myself ethnically Appalachian, racially mestizo, but socially “white”, due to my appearance. There I will not be pulled over for “driving while black”, and so on. But am I not a “person of color”? I am brown, not white. And my people have been socioeconomically oppressed in this country for generations.
I will continue to act in solidarity with all oppressed peoples, but I will not accept anyone attempting to turn racism on its head by maintaining the same division of humanity into “white” and “non-white/people of color” and then defining the “whites” as in some way less than human, which is what this article does.
Not to my face you don’t!