Cheryl Harris’ “Whiteness As Property” didn’t really come as a surprise to me, for me it put everything I was already familiar with into one article. The part that stood out the most for me was the introduction, it gives somewhat of an emotional and more personal factor which made me feel a connection to the author. Harris talks about her grandmother being able to pass as a white woman, which allowed her to get a job in Chicago’s central business district. The line that stood out the most to me was on page 276, in the fifth paragraph, “Each evening, my grandmother tired and worn, retracted her steps home, laid aside her mask, and reentered herself.” This line was heartbreaking, having to endure hateful comments from your coworkers as well as take on an identity you’re not would definitely take a toll on anyone. Being white meant better jobs, nobody subjecting you to hateful comments, and overall being seen as the “better race.” Unfortunately, in today’s society, it still means a lot of those things. I think one of the main points of this article was to say to the reader “hey, being White was treasured property in the 1930s, but it’s still a thing and we should talk about it.”
Towards the end of the article, another quote was able to stand out to me was on page 286, where Harris talks about how whiteness is a “consolation prize,” she goes on to say “it does not mean that all Whites will win, but simply that they will not lose, if losing is defined as being on the bottom of the social and economic hierarchy—- the position to which blacks have been consigned.” A lot of this article, but specifically this line reminded me of a quote that has been drilled into my mind as an African American: “In order to get half of what they have, you have to work twice as hard.” Even if we were to get twice as good, we’re still sometimes reaped with half the benefits. This took a complete 180 for me right back to the introduction, Harris’ grandmother could get a job being black, but being White opened more doors for her. Being White meant that she would be able to better sustain her family and probably even make a better income, in short being White is beneficial to White people.
One thought on “Treasured Property: Our racial reality”
Nice paraphrasing of one of Harris’s most important claims! I’d be interested to hear more about what you make of where the essay ends up – how the present-day implications of whiteness as property play out in her argument.