Is white supremacy a product of paint? Per a prestigious project, perhaps.
Though Caucasians are called “white,” their pigment produces something closer to peach. Nonetheless, our prejudiced planet may have been brainwashed by blanched liquid. Probing the possibility: Norway’s University of Bergen.
Per the New York Post:
The study on whiteness and paint, dubbed NorWhite, observes the Norwegian-developed paint pigment titanium white through “historical, aesthetic, and critical” lenses to determine how the development of the color contributed to “social transformation” as well as how the innovation led to “planetary consequences.”
Perhaps WASP-ish people worldwide found themselves watching white walls ’til they became KKK-ish.
From the official project page for “How Norway Made the World Whiter (NorWhite)“:
The…project…studies…titanium dioxide…focusing on how the pigment transformed surfaces in art, architecture, and design. The primary research question is: What are the cultural and aesthetic changes instigated by titanium white and TiO2 surfaces — and how can both the material in itself and these changes be conceptualized and made visible? NorWhite connects challenging topics — whiteness, technological innovation, and mass-exploitation of natural resources — in a single case study.
Whiteness, the site says, “is one of today’s key societal and political concerns. Within and beyond academia worldwide, actions of revolt and regret seek to cope with our racial past. In the pivotal works in whiteness studies within art and architecture history, whiteness is understood as cultural and visual structures of privilege.”
University of Bergen isn’t exactly an outlier. All over, wicked whiteness is being broken down:
And it all may have started in a Nordic nation. “How Norway Made the World Whiter” intends to “show how Norway has played a globally leading role in establishing white as a superior color.”
Thanks to technological advancements and the efforts of Norwegian chemist Dr. Peder Farup and industrialist Dr. Gustav Jebsen, a method for producing “titanium white” paint was developed in the early 20th century.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the origin of titanium white — the inorganic chemical compound TiO2 — was increasingly used in combination with other materials (as coating for concrete, glazing for ceramics, and additive in plastic) thereby changing the aesthetics of surfaces in architecture and design. Its extreme covering ability made surfaces smoother, brighter, and more opaque.
Fast-forward to systemic ills…
From white walls to systemic spread: Today TiO2 circulates extensively through our material, biological, and economic systems, most of the time completely unnoticeable. The inorganic compound hides in the food we eat, the paper we print on, the paint on the wall, as well as in concrete coatings, in synthetic textiles, tattoos, make-up, sunscreens, and in endless amounts of white plastic products. Currently the Norwegian innovation TiO2 is present in literally every part of modern life. … The overall objective of NorWhite is to critically and visually investigate the cultural and aesthetic preconditions of a complex and unexplored part of Norwegian technology and innovation history that has — as this project claims — made the world whiter.
The deep dive is benefitted by deep pockets; NorWhite draws from around $1.2 million granted by the Norwegian government.
Will it turn out that people with paltry pigmentation were turned pernicious by paint? Was privilege prompted by TiO2? If so, maybe we can heal the world with a whole lot of rollers and buckets of shadowy-shaded Sherwin-Williams.
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