If you’re white, there’s a chance you’re deflective — it’s a pervasive problem. So goes the message of a new book by a Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts academic.
Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies Hannah Noel’s title says it succinctly. It’s called Deflective Whiteness: Co-opting Black & Latinx Identity Politics.
Essentially, Caucasians are appropriating the social justice victim narrative. Per the work’s official description, such a scourge “sustains and reproduces structures of inequality and injustice.”
In an interview with The Berkshire Eagle, Hannah hacks at the hideousness of “White lives matter”:
“[Deflective whiteness] involves claims of white victimhood, followed by the appropriation of social justice rhetoric. I begin with talking about Nazi slogans. … [like] “Blut und Boden” which means blood and soil. I trace that in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and the white supremacist march where mostly white cis[gender] men were carrying tiki torches at night. They were saying things like, “White lives matter,” “Jews will not replace us,” “Our blood, our soil.” They were appropriating these claims. They were claiming victimhood. They were claiming this idea that whites were the aggrieved social status, that they were facing displacement because of demographic shifts or whatever.”
But their own actions proved that’s a pile:
“[I]n actuality, the reality that they were able to protest, not fear police violence, claim space, and do so in a relatively confrontational way, was demonstrating the privileges of their whiteness.”
Presumably, the boldness to appropriate is also a sign of privilege. More from the description at Amazon.com:
[Hannah demonstrates] how White supremacy adapts its discursive strategies by cannibalizing the language and rhetoric of Black and Latinx social justice movements. …
White deflection offers a script for how social justice rhetoric and the emotions of victimization are appropriated to conjure a hegemonic White identity. Using derivative language, deflection claims Whiteness as the aggrieved social status. … Deflective Whiteness exposes the various forms of tacit White supremacy that operate under the alibi of injury and that ultimately serve to deepen racial inequities.
If melanin-deficient Americans are aspiring to appropriate victimhood, they’re doing a janky job. But if People of the Pale are attempting to be pegged as putrid, victory is theirs:
Might some people have responded to the above with deflection? To hear Hannah tell it, absolutely. And any deflectors need to “do the work” — like she, as a white person, does. The author explains to the Eagle:
“[I] think it’s important…to understand why people think the way they do. For me, it was important to study race, because, Black Lives Matter, George Floyd … Charlottesville. I can go on and on. And I think that this is a really important discussion for particularly for whites…to take on. I think that oftentimes, the burden of kind of having these difficult conversations and sitting with discomfort is put on historically minoritized groups to educate [others] that this is what race is about. But I think that it’s important, too, for white people to try to do that work as well.”
In the book, Hannah also delves into “whitewashed” country music — and “third wave whiteness.” She elaborates in the interview:
“Third wave whiteness is an approach to whiteness studies. You can focus on many different things, but what I do is focus on the difference between whites, the difference between whites and how whites discriminate against one another to highlight the constructive nature of whiteness. … I mean, white trash. I mean, redneck. I mean, these different ways that people…view racism as something that’s Southern, rural, poor, as a way to show that whiteness itself is no monolith — that it is in itself a social construction. … I talk about the history and the whitewashing of contemporary [country] — what I term bro-country — and then country rap or country trap, the whitewashing of this music by the Nashville establishment. … Aaron Neville and Tina Turner have released country albums.”
Might a purchase of 1974’s Tina Turns the Country On be an antiracist move in the right direction? If you’re white, you can give it a shot. Either way, try to keep your future deflection to a minimum.
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