What White Looks Like: African-American Philosophers on the Whiteness Question

By George Yancy | Go to book overview

4

DELEGITIMIZING THE NORMATIVITY OF "WHITENESS"

A Critical Africana Philosophical Study of the Metaphoricity of "Whiteness"

Clevis Headley

THIS CHAPTER CRITICALLY EXAMINES WHITENESS from an Africana philosophical perspective, but resists the temptation to establish ontological symmetry between whiteness and blackness. In this regard, it differs from new scholarship that, despite its critical investigations of whiteness, falls prey to the tendency to treat whiteness as one identity among others. 1 This move to establish ontological parity between whiteness and blackness mistakenly interrogates whiteness without focusing on the power and privilege intimately connected to white identity.

Because of the tendency of some to construe immediately any approach to an understanding of whiteness from a black perspective as a form of extreme black nationalism, it is important to dissociate Africana philosophy from ideologically tainted construals of black nationalism. Though certain black cultural nationalists recommend a total repudiation of all things white, ranging from white aesthetics to white history, Africana philosophy eschews rigid ideological stances and, instead, pursues a course of critical confrontation.

On the other hand, there exists the tendency to interpret the responses of African peoples to whiteness in pathological terms. Blacks, according to this view, suffer from self-hatred and low self-esteem precisely because they have been conditioned to value whiteness over

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