One of the most difficult dynamics of race in America is the invisibility of whiteness to most white people. Because whiteness is normative to white people - the water that we swim in as fish in this society - most whites fail to "see" their own racial identity or the ways they gain advantage and privilege from their racial designation. As a result, for most white people, if they think about race at all, they see it as a black thing, or a brown thing, or a yellow thing, or a red thing... but definitely not as a white thing. Race is removed from white people. It is "those people's" problem. Whites are thereby not invested in the problem of race directly and they thus don't often feel compelled to act to rectify this ongoing problem; There is no immediacy to racial issues for most whites because of this disconnect. But, we might remember that Martin Luther King and James Baldwin both eloquently made the point that the problem of race in America is, in fact, not a problem with black people, it is a problem with white people. The problem of race is the problem of white supremacy. Whiteness is at the root of this issue. Always has been. As a result, to overcome this historic tragedy, white people need to wake up to their racial advantage. The first stage in this process is rendering visible that which is too often invisible - at least to whites - in American society.
I'd like to blog more on this issue down the line, but for now I'll leave it at what I've just written. The reason I bring this up now is that the Jena 6 case is deeply rooted in the issue of whiteness and white supremacy. As my mind has been turning on this case, I was reminded of two recent articles on the subject that I think make sense to post near the Jena 6 stuff.
Check out articles here:
"Whites Just Don't Understand the Black Experience," by Margaret Kamara in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
"The Reality of Race: Is the Problem That White People Don't Know or Don't Care?," by Robert Jensen for www.Alternet.org