I’m headed into the final push with one week left on the Kickstarter for White Skins, White Masks, and we’re just $15 shy of 50% of the goal! Please help spread the word this week and we’ll have a good chance of making it.
As I’ve been working on this campaign, I’ve been continuing to write, research, and plan for the film. I’m so excited about how it’s coming together. It’s going to be a very different kind of film. White Skin, White Masks is best described as an essay documentary as it combines poetry, new theories about whiteness and white supremacy that is based on my own research in the field of psychoanalysis and race over the past 20 years, and media analysis an criticism.
Here’s a bit of writing I did this week while researching for the film this week:
Whiteness as Comfort
David Shih argues that “white supremacy cultivates a sense of entitlement to comfort,” especially among white middle and upper class people.* This manifests in everyday ways such as an aversion to the mere mention of race/racism, tone policing, antipathy to protests and protesters, and more. It relates to the concept of white fragility,** which refers to common responses, usually by white people, of anger, defensiveness, denial and more in discussions of race/racism.
I find myself increasingly drawn to the notion of comfort instead, however, for two main reasons: 1) white fragility makes white people less inclined to view themselves as implicated in white racial character defects (“I’m not racist,” “I’m not fragile,” “#notallwhitepeople), and 2) whiteness as comfort invokes a more comprehensive matrix of power of privilege at institutional and individual levels, rather than expressing racial privilege as an individual characteristic or character defect.
Whiteness as comfort also begins to articulate a field of intervention through which white people can concretely begin to imagine dismantling whiteness and white supremacy. When we understand race and whiteness through the lens of comfort, we can look to all the ways that our culture, institutions, and communities create systems and relations of comfort for white people, as well as begin to imagine ways to embrace discomfort in the project of anti-racism. The notion of fragility, on the other hand, implies that white people need to learn to suck it up and learn to have the tough conversations, which may be true, but it leaves the impression that this is an individual failing, rather than recognizing that whiteness as comfort is a system of being in our colonial society that is instantiated in all of us from birth by culture, institutions, family, and more.
I discuss all this, and more, in my upcoming documentary, White Skins, White Masks. Please support this project by sharing or donating today!
* David Shih, “What Comfort Tells Us about Racism.” https://professorshih.blogspot.ca/2015/04/what-comfort-tells-us-about-racism.html
** Robin DiAngelo, “White Fragility.” www.overcomingracism.org/resources/White-Fragility.pdf