I discover Whiteness Studies

14 Dec

This is a transcript of me discussing Whiteness Studies with my wife on Skype. In it I report on my sensations after consuming toxic levels of caffeine.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Have you ever heard of Whiteness Studies?

Mrs. Jahbooty: no, what is that

Sheikh Jahbooty: Me neither.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Rockford and Anais were trying to teach me about it.

Sheikh Jahbooty: It is the idea that “white” as an ethnicity is something that has it’s own identity, just as much as “black”, for example.

Mrs. Jahbooty: really? i would think then that the identity would be mostly about how others perceive you or how you perceive yourself compared to black people…because it’s not a real ethnicity with a cultural basis, etc

Sheikh Jahbooty: That makes sense. We can’t really be free of cultural bias because humans need language for some basic developmental processes.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i guess i’m saying it’s more a relative identity, because there are lots of different ethnicities within whiteness, right?

Mrs. Jahbooty: kinda like without a “gay” identity, would there be a “straight” identity

Mrs. Jahbooty: it’s relative

Sheikh Jahbooty: Yes, all ethnic identity is relative, that’s cool.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Or all identity!

Mrs. Jahbooty: that’s very human

Mrs. Jahbooty: did you see the RSA animation on that….I forget which one

Sheikh Jahbooty: Or is all language relative?

Mrs. Jahbooty: i don’t think so

Sheikh Jahbooty: I do not think I did, but the one of cultural progress and revolution did touch upon it when he talked about increasing human empathy.

Mrs. Jahbooty: people like to categorize, it makes understanding easier

Sheikh Jahbooty: Whoa! I think categorization and understanding might be the same thing.

Mrs. Jahbooty: hmmmm

Mrs. Jahbooty: i’m inclined to think they aren’t the exact same thing, but maybe really related

Sheikh Jahbooty: So anyway, Rockford told me last night, “Whiteness is a cultural standard that we all have to conform to.”

Sheikh Jahbooty: “It’s almost as much of a hassle for you to conform to whiteness is it is for me.”

Mrs. Jahbooty: breakthrough…black and gay are an identity in reaction to society at large…maybe in that way black creates a white identity and gay creates a straight identity. and black and gay identity are also born out of not having a history

Mrs. Jahbooty: in that case it’s almost like the standard english accent

Mrs. Jahbooty: we have to conform to it, but in reality it doesn’t exist

Sheikh Jahbooty: That was part of his point.

Mrs. Jahbooty: no one has the perfect english accent except people on tv

Mrs. Jahbooty: i wonder how that happens…how perception and ideals become writ large and no one really lives them, but we feel we have to aspire to them

Sheikh Jahbooty: I guess through art.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i get what he’s saying

Sheikh Jahbooty: You establish consensus on aspirations through communicating them compellingly.

Mrs. Jahbooty: but whiteness isn’t considered cool…so maybe it’s a standard for economic success, but not a full aspiration

Sheikh Jahbooty: Hmmmmmm

Sheikh Jahbooty: Hmmmm Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

Sheikh Jahbooty: Can you ritualize an aspiration so much that people look for it in you, for performance of a certain duty, even though everyone detests it?

Mrs. Jahbooty: i don’t understand the question?

Sheikh Jahbooty: Like can you imagine that someone needs to be a cockbiter to be a good manager, for example.

Mrs. Jahbooty: people often feel that way

Mrs. Jahbooty: i’m thinking about marginalization and compartmentalization of aspiration…we do that

Mrs. Jahbooty: so you need to be a certain type of person to succeed as a banker, a different type to be an entertainer or a different type to be in the creative field

Mrs. Jahbooty: so maybe there is this whiteness aspiration, but it’s not for everything but it can help you in other fields the closer you get to it.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Wow, that’s pretty amazing. It’s all so finely detailed.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Maybe whiteness is a baseline of aspirations and you need other aspirations on top of that to fit into like, banker or baker, or electrician.

Mrs. Jahbooty: hmmmm

Sheikh Jahbooty: Like suppose we could define a person by his aspirations. Then those aspirations could fall into categories. And he would be acting “white” based on how many of his aspirations matched the category of “white”.

Mrs. Jahbooty: well then you’d have to define white

Mrs. Jahbooty: and that’s a whole other kettle of fish

Sheikh Jahbooty: Aren’t we all doing that, every day. 😛

Mrs. Jahbooty: ok then define it…it’s not easy

Mrs. Jahbooty: and i would venture to say that white in this case America is really just majority

Mrs. Jahbooty: like straight is to gay

Sheikh Jahbooty: Holy fuck, I need to slow down. I rolled over on my side on Rockford’s floor, reached into a bag of coffee, threw a handful of whole beans in my mouth, and chewed them up. That’s how I woke up this morning.

Mrs. Jahbooty: ugh so you ended up with the coffee beans!

Mrs. Jahbooty: did you eat

Mrs. Jahbooty: it’s almost 11am

Sheikh Jahbooty: Whole coffee beans.

Sheikh Jahbooty: That’s what I ate.

Mrs. Jahbooty: that’s not food

Mrs. Jahbooty: that’s something that’s not quite coffee

Sheikh Jahbooty: It’s just I was sitting here, excitedly typing to you, thrilled about all this and I realized I was flying, while Rockford and Logia and Anais and them are tired.

Mrs. Jahbooty: you need food, you’re on a coffee high

Sheikh Jahbooty: I feel like I am two increments away from being that guy who wakes up under a piece of furniture, looking up at a sign that says, “If you can read this, you have partied too hard.”

Mrs. Jahbooty: ok, then stop with the beans and get some food

Sheikh Jahbooty: Oh wait. I think there was some apple pie.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i love apple pie

Sheikh Jahbooty: Yes, there is a large mysterious apple pie here.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Rockford was getting ready for work, and neither of us had pants on, and he said, “I need to put on pants.” and I said, “I don’t like this job business, if you have to do it with pants on and sober.”

Sheikh Jahbooty: I think that’s part of the white identity, “aspires to wear pants”.

Mrs. Jahbooty: no one aspires to wear pants

Sheikh Jahbooty: And that is how conforming to whiteness hurts us all, regardless of color.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i think casual friday is an attempt to be more comfortable…but you just have to wear pants if you are outside and around people who aren’t your family or very closest friends

Sheikh Jahbooty: You and me, and all real people, really aspire to be pantsless.

Mrs. Jahbooty: right now i aspire to have a day without proofing or custom color on samples

Mrs. Jahbooty: but i also happen to be pantsless

Mrs. Jahbooty: and would love not to be sober

Sheikh Jahbooty: You are a high achiever.

Mrs. Jahbooty: 😀

Mrs. Jahbooty: it’s not very white of me…which is why we’re not rich

Sheikh Jahbooty: 😀 OMG completely.

Mrs. Jahbooty: i really aspire to be rich despite being pantsless and when i get there, then you can say i’m a high achiever

Sheikh Jahbooty: Well, you already have the pantsless down, so you’re already halfway to being Rich and Pantsless.

Mrs. Jahbooty: oh, dibs on the autobiography title

Mrs. Jahbooty: it’ll be my opus on running a successful creative business

Mrs. Jahbooty: and i think pantsless is the easy part, so maybe less than halfway there

Sheikh Jahbooty: But you are also not destitute, so you have some in the Rich column too.

Mrs. Jahbooty: not destitute doesn’t equal almost rich, hippy

Mrs. Jahbooty: 😀

Sheikh Jahbooty: ROFL

Sheikh Jahbooty: Hold on, more coffee.

Mrs. Jahbooty: nooooooo

Mrs. Jahbooty: have more pie

Mrs. Jahbooty: you’re gonna think you can fly soon

Sheikh Jahbooty: Holy shit, why does he own so much pie and ice cream and cider?

Mrs. Jahbooty: because he is awesome!

and then later

Sheikh Jahbooty: Back

Mrs. Jahbooty: i’ve been having an amazing day! i’m about to watch the last being erica. how are you?

Sheikh Jahbooty: I went out shopping with Anais and we drank several double espressos.

Sheikh Jahbooty: There was this moment when I was drinking that last double espresso when my jaw clenched up and I winced from drinking coffee.

Sheikh Jahbooty: Then I looked into the cup and said to myself, “Do not put that into your body. That will mess you up.”

Sheikh Jahbooty: And then I drank the rest.

Mrs. Jahbooty: why?????

Mrs. Jahbooty: are you o.k.

Sheikh Jahbooty: I feel awesome.

Mrs. Jahbooty: well that’s good

Sheikh Jahbooty: I spent the past two hours rubbing my face on Anais while she read her doctoral thesis and I told her when sentences made no sense and then she fixed them until they did.

Mrs. Jahbooty: o.k., allen ginsberg.

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