International Labor and Working-Class History



SCHOLARLY CONTROVERSY: WHITENESS AND THE HISTORIANSÕ IMAGINATION

Whiteness, Racism, and Identity


Barbara J. Fields a1
a1 Columbia University

Abstract

As an organizing concept, whiteness rests on insecure theoretical ground—specifically, the notions of identity and agency. It replaces racism with race and equates race with racial identity, which it accepts uncritically both as an empirical datum and as a tool of analysis. It thereby establishes a false parallel between the objects and the authors of racism and between Afro-Americans and other Americans of non-European ancestry. Whiteness is the ideological counterpart of race relations, both of them ways of skirting around the relations of political, social, and economic power that have determined the place of Afro-Americans in American society.



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