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jimgoad.net :: a vast white-wing conspiracy
A Vast White-Wing Conspiracy
Book review: WHITE, by Richard Dyer
New York: Routledge Press, 1997.
Imagine if Hitler was secretly Jewish and owned a publishing company that released several books with the word 'Jew' in the title. Routledge Press, which I'm guessing is owned by whites, makes a habit of doing the same thing with the word 'white.' They've released Whitewash, Off White, White Lies, White Mythologies, How the Irish Became White, and then, just to keep it simple, a book merely called WHITE. In all of these, 'white' roughly translates as 'evil.' All of these books make the mistake of portraying Whiteness as Monolith, as if social classes never existed.
In WHITE, white man Richard Dyer says things about whites than in any other ethnic context would be seen as virulently racist. He mentions "the dead end of whiteness" and states that "whites are nothing and have had their day, that we are, and perhaps always have been, the dead...being nothing, having no life, is a condition of whiteness." He refers to "white male paranoia" and its "mania for measurable biological distinctions." Hey, dude, it's better than playing with rocks and swatting at flies.
To him, everything is "ethnically suggestive," and race "is never not a factor, never not in play." He is that latter-day oxymoron, an anti-racist who can only think in racial terms.
As a gay white man, he's especially snippy toward white women, alleging that most of them lead "contemptibly empty lives." He calls heterosexuality "the cradle of whiteness," as if black, Latin, and Asian cultures were relatively queer-friendly. Yes, in the 'hood, they're just ga-ga over fey British Nancy-boys. As Professor Griff once alleged (paraphrased), "The African language [sic] doesn't even have a word for 'homosexual."" The difference between black women and white women? The sistas would call Dyer "shaky" rather than "queer." That's about it.
Dyer says, "I am not ashamed to think white masculinity a menace," yet I must conclude that he's not at all threatened when black males act butch. He admits to having the hots for nonwhites and reveals his belief that blacks are better at fucking and dancing than whites. How 'bout calculus? Nation-building? Scientific invention beyond finding new ways to use the peanut? Any thoughts on those things?
There are so many contradictions, this white boy doesn't know where to start. Dyer apparently believes something is true so long as he wishes it were so. He calls black-on-white rape a "trope," something confined to "racist fictions," yet he mentions "the routinised misuse of non-white women by white men." Holy moly, I wonder if he's seen the 1988 FBI Uniform Crime Reports, which state that of 9,415 interracial rapes that year, only TEN were white-on-black? Biting himself in the ass yet again, he calls fascism "an avowedly white form of politics," pretending that there was never a Pol Pot, Idi Amin, or Somoza.
He has a good point when he states that many whites see themselves as non-racial and ordinary rather than a distinct ethnic group, broadly alleging that "all white people in the West do this all the time." Yet he fails to address the fact that ALL cultures, not just European ones, portray themselves as the center of the universe.
He wastes something like sixty pages talking about how photography and film making "privileges white people in the image" and that "movie lighting discriminates against non-white people," yet he can't seem to explain why nonwhites haven't invented their own photographic techniques with which to flatter themselves. He even proposes that the Tarzan movies were in black-and-white because color would suggest "coloured people." You think I'm making this shit up?
Stylistically, he's even more annoying than I am. Dyer, an earnest queer, earnestly queries,
If I continue to see whiteness only in texts in which there are also non-white people, am I not reproducing the relegation of non-white people to the function of enabling me to understand myself?
Shut the fuck up. Really. Go dig some ditches or lay some telephone cable for a while, and them come back to me talking about privilege.
Regarding this nebulous thing the kids call whiteness, he avers,
It is carried by signs of pastness and a geographical location, whose imprecision in no way diminishes the mobilisation of an historical imagination.
Huh? Whazzat? Come again? Try popping that shit in the South Bronx or Compton, and see how warmly you're embraced. Black people don't read these sort of books, G.
Dyer also has a proclivity for the unnecessary self-referential phrase, such as, "already touched on in Chapter 1," or "to be discussed in Chapter 6." And when he states, "Let me provide some instances of this," I wonder what would happen if I said, "Nostop itI'm not going to let you."
Sometimes it's wise to reveal your personal background, sometimes it isn't. Dyer makes the mistake of uncovering the true root of his ethnic self-loathing: In the mid-seventies, while solo-dancing between two lines of racially mixed friends à la Soul Train, he recalls feeling very gawky and white. So because he’s a lousy dancer, he yearns for the collapse of white civilization. He doesn't realize that even if this were to happen, he still couldn't dance. He also reveals he hates whiteness because his white childhood peers treated him as a sissy-freak. One can only assume that if he were born black, he'd be a self-hating Oreo decrying brutish gangstas to some empathetic Ofay who enjoys rubbing ashen elbows with the Talented Tenth.
Richard Dyer is a white man who wants to be black, which I'm sure makes black people very happy and grateful. Ooh, the joyanother white guy pretending he's not white. Get it through your ganja-soaked heads, wiggersself-hatred, in any flavor, is the sign of a masochistic psychological complex rather than political insight.
This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy this book immensely. It’s a white-guilt classic, something which will be savored for its camp value in a generation or two, when everyone wakes up.