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  • Weaponized Whiteness: The Constructions and Deconstructions of White Identity Politics by Fran Shor
  • Michael Ezra
WEAPONIZED WHITENESS: The Constructions and Deconstructions of White Identity Politics. By Fran Shor. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

This short collection of the author’s essays, some of them revised versions of earlier publications, uses key turns of phrase to shed new light on enduring issues in whiteness studies. With two caveats, even those scholars familiar with the literature may find new ways of thinking and writing about the subject via their engagement with this book. First, portions of various essays are positioned within contemporary news stories that no longer resonate as much as they once did. These pieces seem to lose a sense of immediacy that they may have packed upon their initial publication. Second, informed readers will have to sift through a good deal of familiar conceptual material on whiteness.

Shor’s main argument throughout the essays is that whiteness was the founding organizing principle of the United States of America, a powerful motivating force that has yet to run its course. The nation’s earliest wars were racialized, Shor asserts, and that pattern has continued all the way through the country’s most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Riffing on Martin Luther King’s iconic quote, the book asserts that “The long arc of racial injustice…bends towards whiteness” (9).

Aspects of society that had never been racialized anywhere else in the world quickly evolved as such in this country. State-sponsored law enforcement and military forces like slave patrols and the Buffalo Soldiers existed solely to enforce and entrench a national racial caste system designed to be permanent and unchanging. That nonwhite groups have carved out independent and oppositional identities in resistance to such forces reflects their magnificent, multi-century struggles.

Although these multiracial freedom struggles, which sometimes include white allies, may give life to an illusory notion of national progress, they do not actually represent any particular slippage in the foundational national character of white supremacy. In fact, these protest movements face fierce resistance by the most powerful segments of white society, even as they incorporate the support of thousands of white allies.

In Shor’s framework, Trumpism and majority-white support for it is nothing new, but may serve as an inflection point for whites who can no longer envision themselves [End Page 69] aligned with a particular brand of white grievance that is too explicitly associated with Nazism. It may drive an extraordinary number of whites into roles where they serve temporarily as allied appendages to the black vanguard, to use the author’s terminology.

But, Shor warns, the white ally will always struggle with a kind of double-consciousness between her own privilege and the arc of justice that would replace it, and only the destruction of whiteness could really serve as a precursor for such radical change. In a sense, the term white ally is an oxymoronic one. Shor’s prescription for the affliction of whiteness is a hoary one; he calls for whites to reject racial identity politics in exchange for a more powerful class solidarity. Otherwise they will continue to chase guns and god as compensation for their lost privilege, as once observed by President Obama. Only when citizenship and democracy exist without racialized privilege will this country reach its potential.

Michael Ezra
Sonoma State University


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pp. 69-70
Launched on MUSE
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