Tuesday September 21, 2021

White is not a colour

July 26, 2021

“There is no such thing as race, none” – this is how master novelist Toni Morrison broke it down very simply in a famous interview. “It’s the human race, scientifically, anthropologically. Racism is a construct, a social construct, and it has benefits, money can be made off of it, people who don’t like themselves can feel better because of it … so it has a social function. But race can only be defined as a human being.”

Precisely in that sense, the word ‘white’ is a signifier of that racism, its ideological register, its coded symbol. That is all. No human being at birth is ‘white’, ‘Black’, ‘brown’, ‘red’, ‘yellow’ or any other colour. They are all eventually coded with these colours to divide and rule them better. East Asians are called ‘yellow’, West Asians and Latinx ‘brown’, Native Americans ‘red’, Africans ‘Black’, all of them set against the fictive centrality of the Caucasian ‘white’, which Europeans have racialised and reserved for themselves and gave to their settler colonial extensions in North America or Australia as a signifier of superiority. The historical origin of all such racist designations come to full ‘scientific’ blooming during the period Europeans call – without the slightest sense of irony – their ‘Enlightenment’.

Racism is the colour codification of the relation of power and abuse, precisely as sexism is the gendered codification of the selfsame social malaise. Racism is a byproduct of the colonial conquest of the world for economic exploitations that needed a cultural alibi and ideological justification. If you think you are superior to other human beings because you are ‘white’, or you come from a superior civilisation because you are ‘white’ then you are a racist – namely, you assume you come from a fictitious race that is superior to other races, whom you therefore feel entitled to abuse and exploit.

This is how the British ruled India, the French Algeria, the Belgians Congo, etc. When Germans slaughtered tens of thousands of Africans in Namibia between 1904 and 1908, that was predicated on their sense of racial superiority. When they brought that genocide home and perpetrated it on Jews a couple of decades later, that was based on a sense of racial superiority.

Excerpted: ‘White is not a colour – white is an ideology’