Thursday, February 15, 2024

What is 'White Gaze?'

What is the white gaze? The white gaze is a term that describes the way that white people view and interpret the world, especially in relation to people of color. The white gaze is shaped by centuries of colonialism, slavery, racism, and privilege, and it often operates unconsciously or implicitly. 

The white gaze can manifest in various ways, such as stereotyping, exoticizing, fetishizing, appropriating, silencing, or erasing people of color and their cultures. The white gaze can also influence how people of color see themselves and internalize oppression. The white gaze is not a fixed or monolithic phenomenon, but rather a complex and dynamic one that varies depending on the context and the individual.

What are some examples of the white gaze in media? The white gaze is pervasive in many forms of media, such as literature, film, television, journalism, and music. Some examples are:

- Gone with the Wind and The Help: Both films depicted women of color as stereotypes: subservient domestic help with no agency, a typical view in cinema of BIPOC women who are of a lower economic and social status.

- Hidden Figures: The film portrays a white savior character who saves the leading lady from running across the campus to use the Colored Only restroom, while ignoring her agency and activism.

- Freedom Writers: The film focuses on the white teacher who inspires her students at an inner-city Los Angeles school, rather than on the students themselves.

- The Last Samurai: The film centers on Tom Cruise's character who joins a samurai rebellion in Japan, rather than on the actual samurai.

- National Geographic: The magazine has been criticized for its historical representation of people of color as exotic, primitive, or savage.

- Music videos: Many music videos feature black men as threatening or violent, and black women as sexualized or light-skinned.

Why is it important to recognize the white gaze? 

It is important to recognize the white gaze because it has a profound impact on how people of color are seen and treated in society. The white gaze can reinforce stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination that affect the lives and opportunities of people of color. The white gaze can also limit the creativity and expression of people of color who feel pressured to conform to or appease the expectations of white audiences. By recognizing the white gaze, we can challenge its assumptions and biases, and seek to amplify and celebrate the diverse perspectives and experiences of people of color.

How can we challenge the white gaze? We can challenge the white gaze by:

- Educating ourselves and others about the history and effects of racism, colonialism, and privilege on people of color and their cultures.

- Supporting and promoting the work of people of color who create media that reflects their authentic voices and experiences.

- Critiquing and questioning the media that we consume and produce, and being aware of how it may reinforce or challenge the white gaze.

- Engaging in dialogue and listening to the perspectives and feedback of people of color who are affected by the white gaze.

- Taking action to dismantle the structures and systems that enable and perpetuate the white gaze in society.


What are some other ways to challenge the white gaze? Some other ways to challenge the white gaze are:

- Seeking out and learning from diverse sources of knowledge and wisdom that challenge or counteract the dominant narratives of whiteness.

- Developing critical media literacy skills that help us identify and analyze how the white gaze operates in different contexts and genres.

- Creating spaces and platforms for people of color to share their stories and perspectives without censorship or appropriation.

- Supporting movements and initiatives that advocate for racial justice and equity in media production and consumption.

- Celebrating and honoring the cultural diversity and richness of people of color without tokenizing or exoticizing them.

White Gaze is a serious problem in the world today as more and more minorities get more educated. They start to see the discrepancies in the world and media and then we have division and conflicts. In today's political climate, we see the "White Gaze" among both conservatives and liberals. How many times have we seen on social media or in person when a tragedy happens and how it becomes racial?  For example, when minorities go missing, there is little to no coverage in the media. However, for missing caucasian women, there are nearly endless stories on it on television.  Moreover, we saw how Black people are often demonized in the media and social media just for their economic status. 

The case of a homeless Black man killed by a white Marine is a good example. Despite the duty to retreat clause in NY State, a large number of whites on social media were disparaging the black victim and calling for the exoneration of the white marine. They cite "self-defense" for the white marine despite the evidence showing he attacked the homeless black man who suffered from mental illness.  This happens far too often. 

We saw during the events of the death of George Floyd how a large number of whites were attacking him just because he had a criminal record. Never mind that the cop kneeled on his neck for over 8 minutes which cops are NOT supposed to do. Nevertheless, the victim was blamed and is still being blamed today with some saying the cop did not kill him. They claim the fentanyl and COVID-19 killed him.  Many times in the movies we see the white person as the hero while the minorities are the criminals or sidekicks that barely get good lines or air time. It goes on and on, but White Gaze is a serious problem. 

 

What do you think? Post your comment below on Disqus. Only comments that follow posting rules will be permitted.  


References:

Can you suggest any resources to learn more about this topic? Yes, here are some resources that you may find helpful:

- White Gaze: How Black Women Experience It at Work , a paper by Courtney McCluney et al. that analyzes how Black women encounter whiteness in their workplaces.

- Go Beyond Toni Morrison with These 7 Books That Stare Down The White Gaze , an article by PBS NewsHour that recommends books by Black authors that challenge the white gaze.

- White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism , a book by Robin DiAngelo that explores how white people react defensively when confronted with their racial privilege and bias.

- The 1619 Project , a project by The New York Times Magazine that reexamines the legacy of slavery and its impact on American history and society.

- How to Be an Antiracist , a book by Ibram X. Kendi that offers a framework for understanding and combating racism in ourselves and in our institutions.

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