White Women Writing White: H.D., Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, and Whiteness

By Renée R. Curry | Go to book overview
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Conclusion

Michael Omi and Howard Winant envision the task for racial theorizing as that of avoiding the "utopian framework" that purports ways in which we can "get beyond" skin color and the "essentialist formulation" that fixes skin as objectively and biologically marked (55). The journal Race Traitor divines a different need: It proclaims the need to abolish the white race altogether ( Ignatiev and Garvey2). Paul Kival, author of Uprooting Racism, argues for understanding the ongoing and persistent refusal to mark whiteness as a symptom of racism:

We [whites] are understandably uncomfortable with the label "white." We feel boxed in and want to escape, just as people of color want to escape from the confines of their racial categories. Being white is an arbitrary category which overrides our individual personalities, devalues us, deprives us of the richness of our other identities, stereotypes us and yet has no scientific basis. However, in our society being white is also just as real, and governs our day-to-day lives just as much as being a person of color. To acknowledge this reality is not to create it nor to perpetuate it. In fact, it is the first step to uprooting racism. (12)

White Women Writing White labels poets H. D., Elizabeth Bishop, and Sylvia Plath as white writers who, both wittingly and unwittingly, construct images of white mastery, dominance, hierarchy, and privilege throughout their works. Although these poets are not the only participants in the white poetic institution, they are extremely significant members. As Kival reminds us,

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