“If, when you walk down the streets of major cities, other people assume, based on your skin color, dress, and physical appearance, or total impression, that you are white, then in American society, that counts for being white.”
Paul Kivel, author and activist
We white people need to be very honest with ourselves when we answer any questions about whiteness. If you are white, how do you know that? When did you first realize that you were white? Are you comfortable being white? Have you ever thanked God, the universe, or your parents that you are white? Has anyone ever told you that you are not white? Do you ever think about being white outside of conversations about race or whiteness?
Whiteness is not an ethnicity or a culture.
Whiteness has a history.
Whiteness is a relationship.
White identity cannot be separated from white privilege and white power.
Whiteness is visible and invisible.
The question of what is whiteness and who is white is simple. Yet, the history of “whiteness” is long and complicated. What is relevant is the reality that white people do not go around identifying that they are white, unless they are in the presence of someone who is not considered white. (Or, if they belong to the many Neo-Nazi, Neo-Conservative, Neo-Alternative Right groups that believe that “race” is a scientific category, and that the “white race” needs to be protected.)
We white people don’t think of ourselves as white. We prefer to think of ourselves as having an ethnicity. But an ethnicity is defined as “an identity with or membership in a particular racial, national, or cultural group and an observance of that group’s customs, beliefs, and language.” White people do not share a food, a language, a culture, a geographic location, a music, a religion, a national costume, or any other defining characteristics of an ethnicity.
What we share is a history and an experience of privilege, benefits, and domination. Whiteness is everydayness. I can tell my story without mentioning my race.