Racialized Bodies

Candace, 25 July 2005, Comments Off on Racialized Bodies
Categories: Bodies, Women's Studies

Because I am white I have experienced the privilege of being part of my society’s dominant group. I have never worried that I would be the only person ‘like me’ wherever I have needed to go. I have not stood out as being visibly different and in the community where I live; whenever I have preferred to blend into a crowd I have been able to do so.

I live minutes from Detroit, Michigan where in many communities I am a visible minority. Because I am white I have been taught to be afraid of going across the border because my colour puts me in danger as if all Black people in Detroit are gun toting and blood-thirsty with a hatred of all white people. Even though I know this is a stereotype, years of brainwashing and minimal experience have left me feeling insecure in some parts of the city. I have been warned by customs officers not to go places. Police officers have escorted white women I know out of neighbourhoods where they “were not supposed to be”. It is hard to separate which reason justified the warning and escort: is it because we are women or because we are white? Or are the two so linked that they cannot (and should not) be separated?

One of my distant ancestors was one of Canada’s First Nations people, from Northern Ontario in the region of Manitoulin Island. My uncle has done the genealogical research but I do not know the details of the number of generations removed. I like that I have some claim to the land where I live even if my blood is diluted to the point of invisibility. I worry though that the partnering was not one of choice, making my white ancestors more culpable in their colonization of Canada’s indigenous people.

When I see a beautiful woman of colour I have to question myself: do I think she is beautiful because she is beautiful? Or am I influenced by the cultural suggestion that women of colour are beautiful because of their contrast as a group to the dominant white group? I do not feel this same awkwardness/anxiety/apprehension when I see a beautiful white woman.

My daughter showed me this year that just outside the music room in her school there is a bulletin board of famous composers. There are profiles of about a dozen dead white men and she asked me why there were no women. We made a plan to research a few like Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann to add to the board and during the process we discussed other marginalized groups who lacked representation. The school has a very diverse population with many new Canadian families. To look at this bulletin board many would believe that composers are only white men. Finding information about non-white composers, especially women, is difficult. Composing has traditionally been an occupation for the upper class and extremely few non-white men and even fewer women are privileged enough to make it into this group.


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  1. rose
    01 August 2005, 1:17 am

    I have never had any success with determining “beautiful” Mostly, I think, because I was so inculcated to think flawlessness was a necessary element. It took a very long time for me to figure out that the reason others considered certain friends and acquaintances beautiful and I did not was because my view was so skewed. When I worked it through I came to an awareness that I use in my work to this day. I like your blog, thanks,rose

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