Contextualizing Whiteness

Lina posted a great resource earlier today that detailed some components that comprise “white supremacy culture.”

Last night in rehearsal, we spent more than an hour discussing how the conditions and systems of whiteness manifest themselves — in the school, amongst the council, in governance, in interpersonal relationships between characters, and in the world outside the play.

Some observations that came from that conversation are listed below. The comments have been anonymized.

• “Whiteness has been constructed in the play to be as loomingly present as it is in reality.”
• “Isa’s line about how ‘you can’t have your pet pony black person go on a rampage’ — to be on the school’s parent council, do you have to be a certain kind of black person?”
• “I’m interested in how whiteness is associated with obliviousness — permission to be oblivious. For Gordon, as the cis white head of school, only someone with his status can behave the way he does.”
• “Is part of the way Gordon keeps his position, and how everyone takes care of him, waiting on him, making allowances for him — is it because the POC on the council actually need a white guy as the figurehead?”
• “White people are able to tap out of situations/conversations/the work when it gets tough. This feels connected to Gordon’s desire to ‘just drift’ and basically walk away from this school whose mission is about access and citizenry.”
• “Thinking about ‘code-switching’ in these scenes. In life, there are metaphorical ‘front spaces’ where marginalized people need to perform, and ‘back spaces’ where marginalized people feel more comfortable to be themselves. How do POC interact during the scene with the cocktail party, where there are no white people, but they are still surrounded by the overwhelming presence of whiteness? On top of which, economics, rather than race, becomes a sorting factor with regards to characters’ status.”
• “I read recently Domination and the Arts of Resistance — it touches on front space vs back space. People in positions of power have the ability to be more casual in spaces of performance. In the cocktail party scene, Kim comes out and almost says that they need Christine to substitute for Ann on the council because they don’t want the composition of the council to shift to become more white.”
• “Whiteness as an ideology exists outside of bodies, even in a place with a plurality of black and brown people.”
• “Black people are hyper visible in some spaces while being simultaneously invisible in those same spaces. Like the way that Val presumes Christine isn’t a member of the parents council, and instead is a stranger who got lost on the way to CVS. Then, at the same time, Christine is featured in the fundraising videos as the diverse face to represent the school.”
• “There are some POC characters who are aware they’re in white spaces, and play differently to that.”
• “Marginalized people in white spaces are often called on to leverage their identity as a selling point. Like Christine is asked to do as a black woman of a lower economic status, or like Kyle has probably been asked to do with regards to their black trans identity.”
• “Wealth and whiteness are often linked, but that does not hold true in this play. Money is all over this play all the time, and the some of the wealthiest characters are POC. The most economically disadvantaged character is white, but has positional power as the Vice-Prolocutor of the council.”
• “Kirsten is looking at the issue of substitution — how white culture looks to simply substitute people of color for one another, such as we see with Ann and Christine.”