Feminism and the Future of Whiteness

The Future of Whiteness back to the future

Last week, I went to a talk entitled, “The Future of Whiteness.” Philosopher Linda Alcoff talked about how white people see themselves as they become the minority in the U.S. Unfortunately, I didn’t process all the information fast enough, and I missed the opportunity to ask Alcoff what I now think is an important question: Do you see any gender differences in how whites perceive themselves and others as whites’ majority status diminishes?

I thought about my many experiences growing up as the only non-white person in a group. Advanced classes, girl scouts, dance classes, quick recall team, newspaper staff—these classes and activities sometimes attracted Asian kids, but other than that, it was white children and me. Also, participation in most of my extra-curricular clubs was heavily female. I did things most black girls just didn’t do, and if cultural differences in activities remain today, white girls easily can grow up in a world where only the U.S. Census tells them they’re the minority.

On the other hand, boys of every race are playing sports. But that has a caveat, too: some sports are more common among whites, and among people of a certain economic class, a class which tends to be majority white and probably will continue to be for another century. So there could still be plenty of white boys who grow up in a world where only the U.S. Census tells them they’re the minority.

More important to perspective gender differences in how whites relate to their own whiteness, I think, are the issues of masculinity and manhood. I’ve often heard the excuse during conversations about everything from household leadership to intimate partner abuse in black communities that black women basically have to deal with abusive, misogynistic bullshit that some black men dish out because it’s so hard for black men to live and survive, much less thrive, in a white man’s world. White men displace a black man as leader, so when he comes home to a black woman, she should step back, cater to him, not try to run things and tolerate it when he takes out on her what he can’t release on “The Man.”

So with the population of white people decreasing, are white men going to unleash their pent-up frustration on white women? And will white women be expected to take it? I’m thinking no and no, even if the answer to the first question turns out to be yes. Because of economic inequality and its resulting opportunity inequality, there will be plenty of ways white men can weld power over nonwhites—the world over—for a long time. They don’t need to pick on white women to affirm men’s self-appointed dominance.

But current trends could make you think they’re doing just that. Pro-choice activist Lynn Paltrow, Founder and Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said on “Bill Moyers & Company” last month that criminalization of abortion in the U.S. began “in response to a very similar moment in history that we’re in now. It was a point in which there was a great deal of immigration, where native white birth rates were falling, and there was the first beginning of the suffrage and feminist movement, … And it’s as if we’re in that moment again, where Americans, an America in which it is no longer going to be a white majority, in which it feels like white birth rates are falling, and you see people turn to religion and you see people turn to very old notions about how society should be.”

On the abortion front, white women definitely aren’t taking it. And if most people keep thinking of feminism as a white woman thing, white women won’t be expected to endure white men’s loss of numerical power in any other way, either.

P.S. – I didn’t bother to write about this, but I was the only black woman at the One Billion Rising event I went to, also. There two Asian women there.

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