|Baptism by Jean-Michel Basquiat|
So who is white, anyway? Many Mormons won't even admit that this as a real question. Not only do Caucasian Mormons think of themselves as "white", but they ply themselves with the greater American tradition of whiteness and the belonging that myth portends for the social-climbing hierarchy of the power structure of this country.
Interesting books have been written about the Mormon struggle to assimilate into American whiteness. The Mormon Menace by Patrick Mason, and Religion of a Different Color by W. Paul Reeve should be read by anyone who cares about this topic. But even those books make some of the same assumptions that everyone else does with regards to our bodies: that there is actually a white race.
After all of the passing as whites that my family has done, abandoning much of our Mexican heritage and doing all in our power to look, act, mix, work, and condescend like the race that dominates the power elite of this country, I think I'm ready to be honest about this corrupt and profane ideal:
There is no white race. It is a lie about skin, and culture.
Our traditions were given to us before this was even a country. They dictate that we refer to beige and/or taupe skin as "white", but this conceit yields nothing that is actually righteous. Ask yourself, what good has ever come from referring to light pink, seashell, or ivory colored people as "white"? I mean truly good. If you can name a single thing, post it below. If you can convince me, I'll give you $100.
A sheet of paper is white. Snow is white. There are no bodies on the earth that actually have the whiteness of a sheet of paper, or snow. No babies, and no grandmothers. No supermodels. No CEOs, no attorneys. People will self-deprecate with jabs about how "pasty" they are, and some will dress or apply cosmetics to achieve "whiteness" by contrast. But the shade, hue, and chroma of their flesh always defy their efforts. This notion of a "pure race", as both a culture and an aesthetic, is a falsehood.
Our art and colloquialisms reveal this falsehood for what it is. When a student of art seeks to color a drawing with a flesh tone, Crayola doesn't offer a tool that renders white. Neither does Prismacolor. Accurate renderings of human flesh rarely even utilize white at all. Such works that do use white are always abstract.
Liberals often identify and decry white privilege in their discourse, but would they argue against the privilege of Caucasian hues fulfilling the commonly accepted role of what we think of as flesh color? Please remember that you claim to have concern for the happiness and belonging of all human beings in your pursuit of humanism. Our acceptable lies are on display for any who seeks to truly apprehend the actual bodies of human beings.
Lies are useful for obtaining power, and this lie has been ever so successful in that regard. The power elite of every country in the world strive to emphasize their "whiteness" through pomp and etiquette, or by paying homage to the same traditions with the pleasantries they perform.
People call this behavior "paying respect", but once you are trapped within the lies that people insist upon with regard to skin color, what really occurs between dignitaries is a competition of "whiteness" as an ideal of civility. The actual color of these peoples' skin is a non-issue, and irrelevant. Whiteness is a matter of performance, and how one acts is all that matters.
The connotations of identifying as "white" are myriad, and infinitely destructive. White, as a symbol, infers purity, cleanliness, righteousness, perfection, and godliness. To insist that a race of people is "white" infers that those qualities are inherent, when that is not true at all. This insistence is a form of self-ideation that places alluring myths upon the surface of your life, and impossible standards that you can never live up to on your own. It projects a myth of you upon all other races.
What is the common response to a lie? Ask a beige child who is just learning to speak what color they are. Then, as if to perform a social experiment upon them, insist that they refer to themselves as "white" thereafter. Do they refuse the lie from those who care for them? Or do they espouse the lie? Indeed, all of us consume and live out the lies that are useful to us within the ecology that we live in. Lies are delicious when they feed the ego, and essential when they fatten a bank account.
Which brings us to slavery. Why do the de facto methods for exerting basic "whiteness" consist of controlling other races? Profiling, legislating, murdering, and systematic subjugation of brown-skinned people has traditionally been part and parcel to beige people fulfilling this myth, and terms surrounding "black" have always accompanied these power plays.
The binary of calling yourself "white", of course, is the insistence that there be a "black" race who inherit all of the negative connotations associated with that term. They too must lie about the color of their skin in response to the lie you present about yours. Then fulfilling that role, they must submit to the will of those who are "pure". They must serve the "godly". They are chattel for those who are "clean".
Ever since slave traders in Portugal used the term negra to refer to the brown-skinned people that they sold, the sense of ideation and self-determination of every African since was sent into a black hole of negative associations: dark, dirty, profane, evil, ungodly. They, in turn, have transformed the meaning of the word black (as it pertains to culture and skin pigmentation) into an abstraction that is just as complex and bleakly mysterious as its counterpart. Some "blacks" get along just fine with the "white" community, and even with the power elite, by simply adopting the customs and etiquette that serves the hierarchy. But they must participate in the lie to pass and be accepted.
These misnomers have become insatiable. They are lies that continue to have their way with the temple bodies of the human race, and their intent is class division of God's children. If the body is a temple, then these false descriptors insist on division where none is required. They create opportunities for reviling, for inequality, for enslavement, and for destruction of self and other when none might exist. They insist on rival tribes that must compete for resources over the unity and selflessness that is required to qualify a group to be the Body of Christ.
Our hatred is unnecessary, but it persists along with these false terms. The ecological plate has always been divided along these lines. We insist on these mythic descriptors, in part, to keep that structure in place. We are comfortable within this carnal conceit.
Those who argue that this is a simple matter of semantics likely have neither the time nor the concern for solutions that are truly holistic on this matter. They will continue to sputter and crash with the false, imperialist machine that brought us here.
If we could simply own up to our true selves, and be honest about our bodies, we might find so many more paths to unifying the human family. We could begin to find, and implement, a language of true belonging. We could begin to heal all who are around us.