To see and learn about whiteness is to unlearn a system that continually oppresses all others that are not ‘white’. For people of color, it is hard to examine and work outside the system of whiteness and to examine themselves as valid outside a world of whiteness. The whiteness is hard to unlearn and hard to step out of. George Yancy’s Look! A White ‘flips the script’ and criticizes that has created a hierarchy of whites over minorities.
Yancy’s “Flipping the Script” from Look! A White establishes that whites cannot be criticized by the system they have created because it has meant to keep them powerful. He says that “the white boy’s performance points to fundamental ways in which white children are oriented”. He continues that “their bodily orientations are unreflected expressions of the background lived orientations of whiteness, white ways of beings, white modes of racial and racist practice” (3). Yancy clarifies that “whites often refuse to accept the implications of their whiteness in terms of its power and privilege” (14). Although their whiteness may be turned on themselves, they still refuse to see the power that they have given themselves. Yancy compares it to seeing oneself in a mirror in the following excerpt:
…the veil of color-blindness means that lifting it would force whites to confront their self-image, with people of color acting as the mirror. [Through this mirror] this act is not frightening for people of color but for whites. It is frightening because whites must begin to see themselves through gazes that are not prone to lie/obfuscate when it comes to the “workings of race” (9).
People of color regularly deal with the mirror of whiteness every day but when they project the image that whiteness projects on poc back on those that believe they are white, the latter is horrified and cannot handle it. This ‘flipping’ of the script and the project back on whites paints a harsh picture. The system of whiteness, created by whites, is a system of hierarchy, humiliation, and degradation that paints those that believe they are white as superior or the norm. Through the mirror whites finally, see a different perspective. Yancy further says that this perspective is “of lived experiences of those bodies of color that encounter white people… as a problem” (10).
As a person of color and a feminist, this mirror, that takes us out of the norm is often hard to digest and examine. At points during my life, especially my re-education of racial understandings and its intersectionality within feminism, seeing this mirror as a privileged person is a difficult relearning and evaluating. As a Mexican-American in the Rio Grande Valley, surrounded by fellow Mexican-Americans, we don’t see our privilege or interact with those with different lived perspectives. When we do encounter and meet, it can be awkward and a learning experience or rude and demeaning. I try to be the former and evaluate with sensitivity how I interact with other persons of color and use this mirror to learn. But through this mirror, it is easier to see patterns of problematic behavior and learn to change and develop. I’m trying to constantly flip the script and face this mirror as well to unlearn problematic behavior as a person of color.
Yancy, George. “Introduction: Flipping the Script”, Look! A White. Temple University Press, 2012.