Its very indicative of where we are on the left that this even needs to be said, but before we even get into the consequences of whiteness, we must first explain what it is.
Whiteness is not reducible to skin color or any other biological indicators. It is a purely social construction. There is obviously a strong correlation to skin color but having white skin is no guarantee you’ll be considered “white”. You could be considered “white” in Latin America and then come to the US and be in for a rude awakening when some red-faced clown in a MAGA hat tells you America is for ‘whites only’.
Whiteness, unlike other racialised identities, isn’t compelled to examine itself at every turn, and why should it? Its the norm and as the norm, it is virtually invisible to itself.
Everything that is culturally or politically important is “white”. We can have a million TV shows over the course of several decades with all white casts, but when a show airs with an all black cast, Twitter and Facebook implodes. Whiteness demands to know where the inclusivity is when it is excluded but fails to acknowledge that it has not been inclusive. It never notices its own ubiquity, but it’s omission draws attention and ire like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Whiteness is invisible to itself because every other racial construct is created in contrast to it. It is the baseline. To be non white is to be viscerally aware of one’s own racialisation and whiteness, whereas to be white is to be ‘American’, ‘working class’ or ‘humanist’ completely indifferent to the effects of racialisation
Whiteness is also a political identity. It’s very creation was a political maneuver intended to serve as a mechanism of social control over developing labor solidarity in the late 1600’s. Created by the ruling class over 400 years ago, it no longer requires regular maintenance by the ruling class. It faithfully perpetuates itself socially while also culturally reproducing itself generation after generation. It ensures class collaboration as the rich get the poor to act against their own class interest.
The history of working class struggle in the US illustrates the willingness of the “white” worker to sacrifice working class unity in favor of white privilege in the workplace and in various other spheres of social life. At virtually every turn, non-white workers and their communities have been thrown under the bus in preference for “white” solidarity. It is undeniable that the worker is exploited and alienated but the Anglo American has been granted the promises and hopes of whiteness. These promises and hopes represent what they are unwilling to risk as a demographic. It represents the leverage on which the capitalists and politicians will bear down on when the status quo is threatened.
Collectively, whiteness presents additional hazards to organizing both within individual organizations and to the broader organizing environment. One of the effects of whiteness is to filter experience and perception through its lens. Through various social and cognitive mechanisms this filter is normalized, making it ubiquitous and unexceptional. When one is behind this lens, its very difficult to be aware of what is being “filtered out”. The representative accuracy of this filtered reality becomes unquestionable, even to the most introspective person. This lens and its subconscious nature makes whiteness particularly resilient to criticism and challenge. This is why “white” and “white” aligned leftists and especially organizations led by them, present a clear and present danger to the theoritical and operational environment of the broader left. Theory threaded through the eye of whiteness is why leftism has such a difficult time treading racial issues without alienating non-whites in the process. Organizational practice threaded through this lens leaves entire communities and their issues devoid of resources and attention. This problem gets amplified when “white” led organizations attempt to do anti-racism work. The only anti-racism work that “whites” should be doing is decolonizing (and I dont mean that metaphorically) and an earnest effort at deconstructing whiteness.
Whiteness effectively filters out all the necessary information needed to understand how to do anything else. Until whiteness is completely destroyed, “whites” are incapable of leading anti-racism efforts. If we can also agree that racism presents an ever present hurdle to leftist organizing than it only follows that “white” led organizations will also always be a liability to the broader left. If these organizations wish to contribute to any left struggle, in any capacity, then the only course of action is for them to dissolve themselves or stop centering their leadership, membership and recruiting on “white” individuals. Any organization that refuses to acknowledge these limitations and necessary courses of action, moving forward, cannot be considered allies of anything but “white” leftism, if such a thing even has any meaning.