Some Thoughts on “Whiteness”, Privilege, and Related Categories in Discourse in the United States
I have been exposed to numerous news stories, documentaries, long-form articles, and other media products about racism in the United States over the past year and more, ever since George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. It’s not that I had been unaware of racism in America, but I now find myself more educated about the various social, political, cultural, and legal facets of this complex and multi-layered phenomenon. Many questions remain for me, popping up amidst mixed and conflicted thoughts and feelings as I try in particular to tie in the narratives I’ve come across with the experience of the Armenian community in the United States.
At the outset, I have to emphasise that I am not American at all. I have spent quite a few years in this country, but always as a student – an observer and a learner in more ways than one. So my perspectives are that of an outsider.
I remember one of the first times I devoted some thought to the conceptualisation of race in the United States. It was the 2010 census. I filled it in as everyone was required to do so. There were a few basic questions, and then a long list of options for “Race”. It seemed like such a lop-sided form to me. What kind of data would come out of it? As far as I could tell, it would compute how many people were in a given space at that prescribed moment, how old they were, and then lots of variations in how they could label themselves. What purpose could that latter bit serve in public policy?