Saturday, May 05, 2007

Whiteness just isn't what it used to be

The ANC website has been running an interesting series of articles in a series 'White Identity in a Changing SA'. A core text in this analysis is Whiteness just isn't what is used to be.

The narratives in Steyn's book include:

  • Still colonial after all these years
  • This shouldn't happen to a white
  • Don't think white, it's alright
  • A whiter shade of white
  • Under African skies (or white, not quite)
  • Whiteness just ain't what it used to be

Here's a sample of the ANC discussion:

In the introduction of the book, Steyn notes this tendency - "of considerable resistance to talking about race as a social category" - represented, in part, by questions such as "Aren't we beyond this?"

Let us return to the strand, 'Whites are doing it for themselves', in the present narrative. "Perhaps," continues the insurance broker speculatively, "being white affected my life in a positive way, while being black affected many blacks negatively." The insurance broker concludes with the punch line: "White people tend to care more about their surroundings and keeping it clean than blacks do."

The familiar subtext - of a superior culture - underlying the previous narratives, infuses the 'Whites doing for themselves' strand of the 'Don't think white, It's all right' narrative.

Melissa E. Steyn Whiteness Just Isn't What It Used to Be: White Identity in a Changing South Africa (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001) read

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