Photo by Ashley Gilbertson/VII for The New York Times

Whiteness encompasses a number of features of everyday life: it is a reference to the skin color of the people who belong to the group that we call white people, and it is a cultural context that corresponds to their historical and contemporary experiences. Finally, as James Baldwin explained, it is a metaphor for sociocultural power.¹

Paradoxically, whiteness derives dominance as a cultural context through its creation of itself as invisible (to white people, that is). This invisibility is achieved when white people equate their own experiences with normal everyday life on earth for everyone: There’s nothing to see here…


A group of NYC Upper West Siders is raising money to keep homeless people out of their sight.

When 50 Riverside Boulevard opened on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 2015, it made headlines because not all its residents were allowed to use the front door. Extell, the building’s developers, had taken advantage of the opportunity to secure millions in tax benefits by including a number of designated low-income apartments in their 33-story building. The attention-getting wrinkle in the story was that Extell also built a separate entrance in the back of the building by which its low-income residents were required to enter, which local news covered as “the poor door.” …


Racism isn’t “the original sin of the modern Republican party” alone

“I saw the warning signs but ignored them,” confessed Republican strategist Stuart Stevens in his 2020 New York Times op-ed, going on to acknowledge racism as “the original sin of the modern Republican Party.” Stevens was introducing his book It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump¹:

I spent decades working to elect Republicans, including Mr. Romney and four other presidential candidates, and I am here to bear reluctant witness that Mr. Trump didn’t hijack the Republican Party. …


What does my “cultural wallpaper” have to do with racism?

“Being White in America has long been treated, at least by White people, as too familiar to be of much interest. It’s been the default identity, the cultural wallpaper — something described, when described at all, using bland metaphors like milk and vanilla and codes like “cornfed” and “all-American.” Grass is green, the sky is blue and, until very recently, a product described as “nude” or “flesh-colored” probably looked like White people’s skin.” (Emily Bazelon, 2018).

Many White people would agree with this characterization of Whiteness as a neutral background, as the taken-for-granted “cultural wallpaper” of their lives. While most…


(including some that you may not have seen)

The most valuable, foundational antiracism resources for White readers will come from authors and artists of color. Here, I am hoping to mention some works that I see listed slightly less often as I also highlight some that were especially helpful for me. Works are listed in order of author’s last name.

America, This is Your Chance.” Michelle Alexander, The New York Times, 8 June 2020. In just one opinion piece, Michelle Alexander, the eminent legal scholar, tells the story from start to finish. She cites many other outstanding works along the way, and ends with the vision of promise…


and then ask yourself why you aren’t joining them.

“Send in the troops!” wrote Senator Tom Cotton in a New York Times editorial on June 3rd, 2020. The senator was responding to the notion that all hell is breaking loose as protests wind through American cities in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. I hear echoes of these sentiments expressed in the comments of White friends and acquaintances outside New York City, many using words like “escape” and “rescue” with regard to my presence here. Some of them are city residents who have decamped to country homes. …


and why New York City is always worth it

The city where I live is a microcosm for sentiments that are being expressed across the United States via headlines that include words like mayhem, looting, and swarms. Alarm is expressed in opinion pieces and in the comment sections of news articles where protesters for racial justice are described as “cult members” who are “ritually condemn[ing] their own nation, its history, its institutions, its symbols, its flag.” “Send in the troops!” wrote Senator Tom Cotton.

Here in New York, the Times posed what they called “The Agonizing Question: Is New York City Worth It Anymore?” The story was subtitled, “For…


New White antiracists, you can prepare for that moment now

The murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and calls for justice have raised the awareness of many White people who had previously lived in a bubble of disengagement and inattention. We may have been resting in the belief that of course we were against racism, but we hadn’t seen it personally, and/or there must be some other explanation for what happened, and/or we didn’t realize that it was still that bad, and/or we didn’t know what we should do or could do.

If racism did rise to the level of our awareness, it usually involved the obvious misdeeds…


There is a dangerous character in this story and it’s me.

I woke up on May 26th to a story that is told in the national headlines every week, but whose latest installment took place in a location very familiar to me: The Ramble, 38 acres of fairy-tale forest in the middle of Central Park.

It was the latest installment of #LivingWhileBlack, the series of incidents in which White people call the police to report African Americans for such offenses as barbequeing or sitting in Starbucks.

Christian Cooper, a birdwatcher, had requested that Amy Cooper put her dog on a leash as per the requirements stated on numerous signs throughout the…

laura smith

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