Racism through the eyes of the offender: an introduction to “Critical Whiteness”

26 Juni 2017 | By | Category: Allgemein, Interessantes

The reflection upon racism often only occurs as soon as a person who one wants to differentiate him or herself from on the base of physical appearance comes along. In order to do that pretty much any external feature can be used, for example the colour of the eyes or – as it can actually be found within Austrian history – the size of the nose. Those so-called differences are then often used as an attempt to legitimize actions with serious consequences as for example the transatlantic slave trade.

But you don’t even necessarily need to go back that far in history – reprehensible issues can also be found quite recently: in the years 1999 – 2009 for example, ten Africans were victims of such fatal police violence that most of them died from either the consequences or even during the abuse; and that only within the tiny country of Austria within a 10-year-period, not even mentioning the recent happenings in the USA where it seems to be the current norm to kill approximately one person per day (or even more), the only reason being the tone of the victim’s skin.

It can hardly be doubted that the occurring racism is a problematic topic in the Austrian society as well as elsewhere. But what are the reasons for a racist mindset and subsequent actions? What motivates the offenders, what stirs up their hatred, where does their aggression originate? Those and similar questions are being asked by representatives of the “Critical Whiteness”, a new field of research which has been established in the 1980ies / 1990ies. It is an attempt to change the perspective and analyse racism through the role of the offender.

The “Critical Whiteness” tries to bring to everyone’s attention that racism is not only a problem of those who suffer from it but also of those who create this suffering. For the first time, “being white” (here used as an ideological construction) is seen as a problem rather than broaching the issue of “being black” as it usually happens. Whereas “whites” mostly identify themselves through their age, their job or anything else related to that in first place, people who have more melanin in their skin are often categorized as “black” only – and whereas the concerned have to deal with this pretty much all the time, the people who address them like that hardly ever need to reflect upon the fact that they themselves are “white”.

Changing the perspective therefore might be a useful tool to create more awareness, especially in the light-skinned-dominated society. Flipping the coin can be very effective sometimes and this seems to be a case where not only the outcome but also the ground needs to be fought against.



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