Excerpted from this comment thread. Further discussion below excerpt. Others feel free to hop in!
Whiteness at this point has only a tangential relationship to skin color…I only bring this up because whiteness is actually about who access to power…and the preconceived notions that we all have about the people who were raised to believe they are white.
“whiteness at this point has only a tangential relationship to skin color”
I believe this is true. I think if we chose a different word than “white” to describe this new expanded concept, it would reduce much of the petty argument that a racial term does and let people focus on the main idea of cultural normativeness.
I’m always up for exploring more nuanced ways of talking about complex topics, just as long as we don’t lose track of the fact that whiteness (in all its nebulousness) is an important explanatory factor in the disparities we see yesteryear, today, and likely tomorrow.
I appreciate that you try to escape the gravity of loaded terms, to invite others out into that field beyond concepts that come pre-freighted with connotations that lead people to close ranks around their cause (often for good reason). My knee-jerk is to resist that escape, as marginalized communities have done a lot of work to define and own terms in the realms of racial equity work. But if we can create reasons for those communities to trust those who often control framing and conversations, we can have more of these conversations where nuance can creep in without defenses coming up.
I don’t want to control the framing of the conversation; I’m only suggesting a way that it can be more productive, and perhaps apply more universally.
By focusing on “white” and not on “with financial means”, the conversation has already escaped one if its fundamental, and quite powerful, explanatory factors. I understand these are not completely orthogonal concepts, but in many (but hardly all) situations, money seems to overpower race as an explanatory mechanism (a Minneapolis cop kneeling on your neck may not care about your wealth, but OJ Simpson was protected by his millions).
I know that this conversation will ultimately be argued about in racial terms, because, like that onion on your belt, it is the style at this time.