Thinking Beyond the Default

It’s time to shift our perspective

Hello friends,

I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote from Toni Morrison about the situation in the US: “In this country, American means white, Everyone else has to hyphenate." It came to mind again when Mitch McConnell said: “if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans”. In other words, among many whiteness is the presumed default for American-ness.

Defaulting to Whiteness

The situation is much the same in the UK, where Britishness is often presumed to be synonymous with whiteness. The number of times I’ve seen a look of surprise when I say I was born in Streatham, London, is just one example.

(To be fair, in Black majority countries in the Caribbean, it’s the paler people who get the qualifier, but the nuance is different, because they are still the people with the financial power. In global minority spaces, the primacy of whiteness comes with real consequences and dangers to those being oppressed, from lack of opportunity all the way up to death.)

How Black People are Often Perceived

Getting back to global minority spaces, to be other than white can be met with underestimation of one’s capabilities and over-estimation of one’s threat level. For example, former British MP Nusrat Ghani says her “Muslimness” is the reason she was sacked.

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