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Lecture 4

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Week 4: Empire and Transnational Motherwork I Ruth Frankenberg: Growing up white: feminism, racism and the social geography of childhood  Being ‘white’ is a privilege that people enjoy but no acknowledged, a reality live in but unknown  Challenging racism is not a project that can take place only on the level of ideas but which calls for major changes in the social, economic and legislative orders  Essay about how the ways racism shapes white women’s lives, impact of race privilege on white women’s experience and consciousness  Intersectionality: both men’s and women’s lives are shaped by their gender, heterosexual and lesbian women’s experiences in the world are marked by their sexuality, white people and people of colour live racially structured lives  Any system of differentiation shapes those upon whom it bestows privilege as well as those it oppresses  Essay traces the early lives of five white US women to help concretize these ideas and contextualize some of the authors questions about feminist theory and antiracist feminist politics  Women of color have continued to work through transforming feminism, challenging white feminists’ inattention to race and other differences between women and the falsely universalizing claims of much ‘second wave’ feminist analysis (intersectionality)  ‘second wave’: broadens the debate to a wide range of issues: sexuality, family, workplace, reproductive rights, inequalities and official legal inequalities  Women of color in North America and Black women in Britain mapped ways of racism and ethnocentrism that limits feminist theory and strategy over issues such as family structures and reproductive rights (Problems of intersections of gender and sexuality with race and class)  Essay critiques on feminist women of color and white feminists analyzing women’s lives as marked by the simultaneous impact of gender, sexuality, race and class  Author talks about own experiences as a Marxist Feminist and engaging in antiracist acts  Notes that “saw racism as entirely external to me, a characteristic of extremists or of the British State, but not a part of what made me or shaped my activism”  Barely noticed that the reality of All-Cambridge Campaign was almost entirely white in its membership  “my externalizing of racisms changed in the US, where initially through university” – institutions  Took on a systematic approach on analyzing situations of racism and ethnocentrism Ethnocentrism: believing in the superiority of ones own ethnic group: putting themselves above others because of class and ethnic groups  Interviewing white women and analyzing their narratives, looked not only for stories of white women but also through the language that was available to them in 1980s and 1990s, for talking about race, culture, selfhood, otherness, whiteness  Key idea to research: researched on 5 women on their childhood and teenage years Week 4: Empire and Transnational Motherwork I  Racial identity: complex and no way reducible to biological terms (Suggests social constructionism)  History of USA shows race, race difference and racial identity as politically determined categories, intimately tied to racial inequality and racism, and constantly transformed through political struggles  Thus the names of groups of people give themselves, and the names ruling groups give to others change over time  View whiteness as having at least 3 dimensions:  1. Is a position of structural advantage, associated with ‘privileges’ of the most basic kind such as higher wages, reduce changes of being impoverished, longer life, better access to health care, better treatment from state etc 2. Whiteness is a ‘standpoint’ or place from which to look at oneself, others and society 3. It carries with it a set of ways of being in the world; a set of cultural practices, often not named as ‘white’ but looked on instead as ‘American’ or ‘normal’  Authors analysis of white women’s childhoods is organized around what she call ‘social geographies of race’, exploring the ways racism as a system that shapes our daily environments, trying to identify the historical, social and political processes that brought these environments into being  As much as white women are located in racially marked ‘physical’ environments, we also inhabit ‘conceptual environments’ or environments of ideas, which frame and limit what we see, what we remember and how we interpret the physical world. Tells us what race and culture is  Women she interviewed saw people of colour through the filter of racist ideas generated in the context of West European colonial expansion, raised to live by the rules of segregations associated with explicit white supremacism  Antiracist, feminist struggles -> women beginning to value cultural diversity and recognizing structural racism  Racism is as unnatural as the concept of race itself  Through interviewing people, she highlights a key difference between many white people’s experience of racism and that of most people of colour, racism is very frequently pushed to the forefront of consciousness, as a construct that organizes hardship and discrimination  Few cases illustrates the idea of white standing for the position of racial neutrality, or racially unmarked category  Sense of fear to blacks was usually from sense of different behavior observed in the environment rather than personal experiences  Relational thinking involves seeing the interrelationships among diverse group experiences: When you think relationally, you see the social structures that simultaneously generate unique group histories and link them together in society. This does not mean that one group's experiences are the same as another's, although finding commonalities is an important step toward more inclusive thinking. In thinking relationally, you untangle the workings of social systems that shape the experiences of different people and groups, and you move beyond just comparing (for example) gender oppression with race oppression Week 4: Empire and Transnational Motherwork I  Racist discourse crucially linked to ‘essentialist racism’ or the idea that people of color are fundamentally ‘other’ than white people: different, inferior, less civilized, less human, more animal than whites  Further speculate that white people’s fear of men and women of color may have to do with the projection or awareness of the anger of individual people of color over white accountability for racism  Growing up in a racially mixed context did not mean that racism was absent from the environment, nor that the environment was not racially structured  All 5 narratives discussed in this paper, landscape and the experience of it were racially structured  Class intersected with race in differentiating relationships with Black communities  Once in a landscape structured by racism, a conceptual mapping of race, of self and others, takes shape, which follows from and feeds the physical context  Interviews: positioning and invisibility of African-American and Latina domestic workers in some apparently all-white homes  Narratives have implications for a white feminist analysis of racism, they clarify some of the forms, obvious and subtle, that racism and race privilege may take in the lives of white women: including educational and economic privilege, verbally expressed assertions of white superiority, the
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