Comments on "Discourses of Whiteness":

Karen Brodkin

These articles give us a fine glimpse at how grand theories behave in daily life because they observe the dictum of good science and good art—they show us instead of just telling us. Together and singly, they illuminate two theoretical strands in current studies of whiteness (Allen 1994; Brodkin 1998; Crenshaw and Morrison 1992; Frankenberg 1993; Ignatiev 1995; Jacobson 1998; Morrison 1990; Roediger 1991). The first is the notion that whiteness is less a freestanding category than the powerful pole of a social relationship created by invidious contrast. Consequently the meaning of whiteness, its variability, and its fluidity all derive from its position of power and privilege vis-á-vis particular nonwhite others. And the second strand, somewhat less developed in the literature, is the notion that whiteness as a performed or lived role in a relationship has its internal contradictions. That is, the relationship of white folks to their whiteness, defined by the putative nonwhiteness of particular others, is often a relationship of ambivalence about the costs and benefits of what they embrace and what they devalue in order to be white.

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