Pursuing a Liberated (non-)Whiteness in a Pale Body An Abolitionist Approach to the Problem of the Concerned White Person

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2020
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Haverford College. Department of Political Science
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Thesis
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Award
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eng
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Open Access
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Abstract
With the widespread influence of the Black Lives Matter movement and Indigenous resistance in the aftermath of Ferguson, Baltimore, and Standing Rock, as well as the rise of Donald Trump and resurgent white nationalism weighing heavily on the United States' national consciousness, white people have recently been forced into confronting something they/we would rather not talk about: their/our own Whiteness. While many white people have chosen to ignore the realities of white supremacy and/or doubled down on reactionary racial politics such as those exemplified by Trump, a great number of white people have at least expressed a willingness to engage with the persistence of racism in the United States. While this group of white people range in ideology from moderates and conservatives to liberal Democrats to progressives and anarchists, for the purposes of this thesis I have chosen to unify them/us under a shared identifier— "Concerned White People." This thesis is my attempt to address the problem of the concerned white person. First, I argue that Whiteness and white supremacy have never been and can never be separate/separated—that the nature of Whiteness itself is white supremacy. Therefore, the aim of the Concerned White Person (CWP), if they/we are to attempt the elimination of racism/white supremacy, must include the abolition of Whiteness as a means/end of abolishing white supremacy. I then discuss and critique the popular ideology of white allyship, finally outlining what I'm calling a "liberatory framework of solidarity" that I hope might be instructive for the CWP. Since Whiteness itself must be abolished, it is necessary to imagine, theorize, and ultimately bring into practice a new and different way (or different ways) of being in a pale-skinned body, as someone who is now racialized as white. I argue that the CWP should practice a politics of being not an ally, but an accomplice or race traitor (or similar), emphasizing that resisting the racial order entails taking on relationships of interdependence that involve real commitment/risk (including the risk of bodily harm, certainly of financial/professional/personal loss) in order to be in solidarity with Black people, indigenous people, and other people of color (who are always at greater risk), as well as that the politics of concerned white people ought to be aimed towards revolution/liberation rather than reform/inclusion.
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