Whiteness, History, and Comments about George Zimmerman

Whiteness, History, and Comments about George Zimmerman

Andrew Joseph Pegoda, A.B.D.

Andrew Joseph Pegoda
Department of History
University of Houston

Events and things in history frequently involve what I call the “realms of illogic.” It’s not gonna make sense. “Race” is one of these. This posting is an attempt to address how people are classified as white or not and why Zimmerman is actually “white.” Absolutely no offense is intended by the use of racialized terms here and the various ways I discuss, describe, and classify them. This posting discusses how these racialized terms are used in society and the consequences they have.

In the United States, in most cases with brief exceptions from around the 1860s to the 1920s, people have been socially and politically classified/racialized as either white or black – sometimes Indian, Asian, and more recently Middle Eastern and Hispanic are added in.

Generally, no one literally has white skin. Likewise, people usually do not have skin that is literally black. People, clearly, do have skin color; however, these colors very greatly.

In reference to racialized thoughts, “white” and “black,” then, clearly do not refer to colors. This makes said racialized discourses doubly odd and tricky for the human brain. On the one hand, we know that “race” does not actually exist at all on a biological level. On the other hand, the use of colors to define different races is odd in terms of the signifier, signified, and semantics, for example.

Who is “white” or not “white” is not always cut and dry. Ascribed statuses, achieved statuses, and time and place play a factor. “Whiteness” is something to recognize and something to consider. People have various degrees of whiteness, and this whiteness gives people unfounded, automatic “white privilege.”…

Read the entire article here.

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