Monolithic Anything


During Week 6: Native American Representations, I talked about how popular literature at the time used the notion of the “monolithic Indian” to throw Native Americans of all different tribes into an abstract and generalized bunch. This strategy was effective in robbing all Native Americans of their true identities, culture, and autonomy. This dangerous idea basically made North America easy prey for white Manifest Destiny. This cultural genocide was validated by the fact that popular literature painted the Native Americans as treacherous, blood thirsty, savage, sub-human, and since “all Indians are the same,” then by logical extension, they must all be a threat too. This stereotypical “Indianness” was used to systematically silence an entire population, who at the time, were the majority on this continent, so it’s no surprise that White America is mortified by the notion of “whiteness,” the current social movement to define whiteness, and the challenging of white privilege from all fronts.

In Dyer’s “The Matter of Whiteness,” he informs us that, “This assumption that white people are just people, which is not far from saying that whites are people whereas other colors are something else, is endemic to white culture. Some of the sharpest criticism of it has been aimed at those who would think themselves the least racist or white supremacist. Bell Hooks, for instance, has noticed how amazed and angry white liberals become when attention is drawn to their whiteness, when they are seen by non-white people as white. Whites are everywhere in representation. Yet precisely because of this and their placing as norm they seem not to be represented to themselves as white but as people who are variously gendered, classed, sexualized, and abled. While speaking of racial representation, in other words, whites are not of a certain race, they’re just the human race” (Dyer, 10). This logic is the exact same thought process that was robbed from the Native Americans, African Americans, and any other mistreated minority throughout our country’s history. The first step to making an ethnicity disappear (or to take away its power) is to strip its cultural identity. Racial categorization, just like that which was used against groups like the Native Americans and African Americans, serves to place race first, and human status second. That’s why White America is so scared of the idea of whiteness to gain traction. For such a generalization to take root would threaten the white supremacy in the very fabric of our country and bring about the end to white privilege.

To represent all cultures as “just human” first, and as a race group second is an entitlement that all cultural identities should have been afforded from the very beginning of our nation’s birth, but they weren’t. In order to correct this, white supremacy must be challenged, questioned, and destabilized. Whiteness, as surprising as it may be, does not monopolize being human, but it will continue to attempt to. It will continue to death roll in rebellion for White America knows that to be the minority (or perceived minority) in America is quite possibly the most disadvantageous and life threatening social position to find yourself  and your ethnic group in. America does not need a cultural genocide or white purge, but what America does need to do is to see all ethnic groups, no matter how different, as equally human first, and as ethnic groups second. This is a white luxury that has been monopolized for far too long and should instead be a human privilege.

-Edgar Nava

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