'Whiteness' Chart at the Smithsoniam Museum

I agree, these descriptions are absolutely cringeworthy. Even more so, they are almost like an indirect insult of minority races - seemingly implying that non-white folks AREN’T those traits.

It would be like saying “The traits of black football players are speed, agility and a high vertical jump” - as if to say that athletes of other races can’t do that.

Trying to reply to Kimstu:

Other cultures might value ‘self-reliance’ less than typical Americans do, though. Relationships and reciprocity, for example, might be considered both more effective and more virtuous.

Here are some more cites to nitpick.

There are many more cites. Google helps find them. If you are interested.

It looks to me like the poster is about constructed whiteness. Whiteness was constructed just as much as other racial categories were.* And yes, it was constructed as part of white supremacism, so some of it is associating whiteness with generally positive traits. But some of it is also about how aspects of whiteness are universalized as virtues.

White people will respond to questions about whiteness or race very consistently with an appeal to individualism. In some ways, that can be good. But in many ways, it can be bad, and leads to denial of racial dynamics and institutionalized racism.

Likewise, when the whole culture is set up around the idea that intent is most important, then a person who gets victimized over and over again unintentionally has no recourse. Unconscious bias becomes no one’s responsibility.

  • There’s an excellent podcast series from Scene on Radio called “Seeing White,” which is about what whiteness is, how it was constructed, etc.

Agreed. It seems that much of the negative reaction to this amounts to “it’s racist to point out that racial stereotypes exist.” Which is false, by the way.

It’s right up there with “I don’t see color (and therefore cannot be racist).” Which is also false, by the way.

The presentation is terrible and ineffective. But there are some good and important ideas here. It’s not about whether or not the scientific method is “true”, but rather how you think the world works. And there are some huge cultural differences.

Over the years, I’ve taught a lot of Asian students, especially South Asian, and one thing I’ve gradually come to appreciate is within the terms of South Asian culture, White America is a bunch of selfish asshole parents who don’t love their kids. And there are pretty clear reasons for this:

We shut them away from adults and flip out over behaviors that are natural and normal. We put them on rigorous sleeping schedules and stick them in their own rooms when they are babies because we don’t want to be bothered with them. We leave them with strangers so we can have date nights. We don’t take them to weddings and shunt them off at Children’s Tables at holidays, like they aren’t even part of the family. We brag about a kid who takes regular naps and doesn’t bother us after bedtime, as if that was the goal the whole time.

Ironically, right when they hit the age when they need a firm hand because their mistakes matter, we abandon them. We don’t monitor their grades at school. We let them get away with crappy work when we know they could do better, because we are too lazy to sit there with them and make sure it’s done right. We let them sit around all day when they could be doing things to make their future better, safer, more secure. Instead of trying to secure a future for our kids, we talk about how pleased they are with their independence, we encourage rebelliousness. We focus, again, on what keeps them ( and us) happy at the moment, instead of worrying about the long term. We focus on innate ability (he’s just bad at math) instead of believing our children can do anything, if they work hard enough–because we don’t want to do to the work to make them.

Then, in the most critical point of their lives, we totally abandon them. We get annoyed if they are living at home past 18, because we are supposed to “get on with our lives”. We don’t save enough to send them to the best colleges, or maybe college at all: we expect them to handle it. We let them major in whatever they want. We let them date, even marry, with no guidance at all, when they are way too young to know what’s best for them, setting them and our grandchildren up for a lifetime of misery. We watch them make horrible mistakes and just let them, saying “It’s their life”. We pat ourselves on the back for letting them live their own lives, for biting our tongues, but really, mostly we are just too lazy to do the hard thing of making sure they make the right choices. We brag about being empty nesters and brag on social media about how much we are loving having the kids out of the house.

Then, when we are old, we want to go live in independent living communities with other old people because we don’t even know our kids, we have no real connection to them: random old people seem more like us than our own family. Or they can’t take care of us, because they aren’t successful, because we failed them when they were children. Either way, it’s sad.

Now, I could write this the other way, about all the damage South Asian parents do to their kids. And personally, I am raising my kid in a way a lot of South Asian parents would disagree with. But seeing this did help me understand that the way I saw the world was not the only way. So when I look at that list, while I don’t agree with all of it, I can totally see how some of those items are presented as part of the tool-kit of “white identity”. “Self-reliance, Individual Responsibility, and Independence” are treated as so unambigiously positive in our culture that it leads in some cases to looking like callous self-interest instead.

Manda Jo, I really have to congratulate you on this articulation. I grew up in Indian-American culture and I was steeped in this, but I have never seen it explained so well and so explicitly. Thanks so much. I’m going to save and share this.

Yes, I notice that the news briefs tend to stay on the section titles and don’t go into the bullet point lists inside different sections, where there are elements that could be debated as to how accurately they do or do not reflect it. Much easier to say “what do you mean self-reliance and the scientific method are whiteness values”? OTOH many people would in fact agree that patriarchy and defining self-worth based on wealth are values that do not need to be emulated.

Indeed – and part of that construction of a “whiteness”, to identify who fit with the mainstream bloc of the culture, was to establish a set of what were to be “virtuous” behaviors in this society and to mythologize them: e.g. “rugged individualism”. It is preached that “rugged individualism” is the American Way, which is part of the frontier myth, the idea that if you don’t fit where you are, just get on along and blaze a trail ( * ). And of course, “rugged individualism and self reliance” is easily redefined by those in the inside group as however YOU lived your life - nevermind if you got land from a public land grant, education from a scholarship or a legacy admission, a start-up loan from your father. American Constructed Whiteness, IS heavy with Anglocentric values, and the promotion of assimilation and homogenization even among the other “white” ethnocultural identities. Which is reflected in the “the new immigrants are not assimilating” complaint.

( * But the majority of people who populated the frontier did not blaze trails individually, but set up communities in lands they were granted under homesteading laws. They were “rugged and self reliant” in the sense that all rural farmers in pre-mechanization, pre-mass-consumer-goods days HAD to be self-reliant, do their own work, fix their own things; at the same time they also had strong family and church support networks.)

Yeah, WTH was that about. When you prepare a work like this, you have to resist the temptation to take such pokes.

In any case good on the NMAAHC for pulling it upon realizing it was not getting out the message they had intended.

This chart is really another example of how liberals suck when it comes to messaging. Though it may be well-intentioned and make some valid points (and I do think it makes some valid points), it’s designed in such a way that it’s open to gross misinterpretation. As someone mentioned up above, it would not be all that surprising to see chunks of this chart on a KKK flyer.

It works in the other direction, too. My son is about as white as they come, but was largely raised in a multi-Asian cultural environment, and after age 8 none of his friends were white - a few were Korean, Japanese or Indonesian, but the majority were South Asian. His first girlfriend’s mother was South Asian and his current GF is a first-generation American with immigrant South Asian parents.

Now that he’s an adult (barely - he is 22) and in a primarily white environment, one of the biggest distinctions he draws between himself and his peers is attitudes toward parents. He’s said on numerous occasions, “I honor my parents, the people around me don’t.”

It’s a bit weird, and it is nothing I’d want to take advantage of (there was a situation recently where we could have - long story which I’ll skip, but short version is that he unhesitatingly agreed to do something his parents asked of him that he truly didn’t want to do - we backed off when we saw how unhappy it made him). But as his mother, I’m not complaining.

Which is kind of the point, no? That stereotypes exist and are often perpetuated by certain groups and often used as dog whistles, and that pretending they don’t exist doesn’t eliminate racial stereotypes, it just makes you blind to them and the harm they cause.

re: JRDelerious. As to the “meat and potatoes” “bland is best” line. It’s a way of brushing aside nuance “Oh, I don’t need to hear about all that, I’m just a meat and potatoes kind of guy.” Call it good old fashion “folksy ignorance” as an excuse to pretend like there isn’t a problem deserving of attention.

I can’t imagine any large organisation making a similar poster about blacks and “blackness”.

They don’t need to. The stereotypes are pervasive, and I’m sure they are reinforced in many jokes told around water coolers.

Yes, the point about whiteness is that so many people who benefit from it either are ignorant of or deny or don’t believe that it exists.

Spelling it out for people explicitly is the first step to doing something about it.

Need is irrelevant. They wouldn’t dare

The notion that whites view punctuality and responsibility as “white” virtues is unfounded, and racist to whites. The implication (founded or not) that these things are alien to blacks is racist to blacks. The whole thing is a massive fail.

[quote=“Danny_Hammer, post:28, topic:915636”]
The notion that whites view punctuality and responsibility as “white” virtues is unfounded, and [/quote]

False. This is either denial or something.

False. Another instance of pointing out societal racism as being labelled as racist.

The implication (founded or not) that these things are alien to blacks is racist to blacks. [/quote]

Well, yeah. That’s part of the point. Black people have suffered a great deal from being kabaeled as unpunctual. By white culture. Again, part of the point.

Yeah, maybe now some people who are concerned about their public image wouldn’t dare. Funny thing is that for half a millennium or so white cultures did it pretty much continuously without consequence. And there are plenty of people still doing it.

Prove that whites (50%+, ideally) think punctuality is primarily a “white” virtue. Then do the same for responsibility, objectivity, and causality.

The thing they’re “pointing out“ is a racist lie. The vast majority of whites don’t think things like punctuality and objectivity are “white” virtues.

That in no way proves that a majority of whites think punctuality is a “white” virtue today.

And… what? You seek to encourage such behaviour?

Clearly you have no interest in actually understanding this matter. So that’s going to be the end of my responses to you.