Graves Not Ghosts
You are correct: Being white means that you are permitted to selectively lay aside matters of identity, where others have been forced to carry them. Whiteness is ghostly in exactly this way: It seems to slip in and out of sight all the time. It is conjured up in those moments when it confers advantage, and discreetly tucked away in those moments when it does not.
How do you own something like that? Something that creeps up only when it thinks no one is looking, and then darts away the moment it meets a critical eye? You own it by taking away the transience. You make it always present. Its nature is to come and go and hide; when you make it stay, it disappears.
I do mean what I said about the choice:
You can choose not to put the silence of whiteness between your self and the world.
To clarify: I do not mean that you become The Other in anyone else’s eyes. I do not mean that a willful decision somehow reverses or nullifies the acts of our economic and cultural machinery. I certainly do not mean that anyone transcends race.
I mean only this: You can name the thing, and put it to rest, if you are willing. Ghosts are ghosts because they wander; they have no peace. White people may have the privilege of skirting issues of identity, but they do not relinquish whiteness by doing so. On the contrary, whiteness is precisely distinguished by this ability to appear and disappear. The uncanny situation of being Just Normal, of being Everyone, of being No One, is what it is to be white. Getting rid of whiteness necessarily entails coming into difference.
Being white means that a subtle network of power and complicity silently follows. It will follow for as long as you are willing to quietly accept its favors, and discreetly ignore its wrongs. You cannot be so entangled without compromising some piece of yourself. I have only proposed calling that piece what it is, so that it can be let go for good. Ghosts at rest in their graves are no longer ghosts.