by Ansel Herz
on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 1:03 PM
I keep noticing something. When I wrote about the Zimmerman verdict on Saturday, a gaggle of commenters piped up (I'm paraphrasing): "White supremacy has nothing to do with this. Don't you know, Zimmerman is Hispanic?"
And then yesterday, when I reported on striking farmworkers in Burlington, someone pointed out that Sakuma, the family name of the farmowners, sounds Japanese. "I thought only white people were racist? Or is it the Mexican managers who are being racist?" the commenter wondered.
Zuky, a superb Vancouver blogger I've followed for years, captured the shortsightedness of these responses perfectly in a recent post called "Whiteness is malleable and adaptive." Here it is:
Whiteness is a fluid strategic ideology of violent power, whose boundaries shift according to political circumstances.
At a certain point in US history, particularly during the 1890s, Italians were strung up in trees by white lynch mobs in New Orleans and New York. Today, descendants of Italian immigrants are as likely to defend white supremacism as any other white-identifying ethnic group. Whiteness constantly consolidates its oppressive power by assimilating select groups into its fold with the lure of membership, privilege, and corresponding power over the Other; especially the power of anti-Blackness, the power to degrade Black people.
The newly assimilated must of course prove their loyalty to whiteness by vigorously demonstrating their anti-Black zealotry, in the same way that some gangs require new members to kill a rival gang member in order to join. In this sense, regardless of his ethnic makeup, George Zimmerman has passed the test and is now fully assimilated into the embrace of whiteness.