Marilyn Frye on Whiteliness

Whitely people generally consider themselves to be benevolent and good-willed, fair, honest and ethical. The judge, preacher, peacemaker, martyr, socialist, professional, moral majority, liberal, radical, conservative, working men and women–nobody admits to being prejudiced, everybody has earned every cent they ever had, doesn’t take sides, doesn’t hate anybody, and always votes for the person they think best qualified for the job, regardless of the candidates’ race, sex, religion or national origin, maybe even regardless of their sexual preferences. The professional version of this person is always profoundly insulted by the suggestion that s/he might have permitted some personal feeling about a client to affect the quality of services rendered. S/he believes with perfect confidence that s/he is not prejudiced, not a bigot, not spiteful, jealous or rude, does not engage in favoritism or discrimination. When there is a serious and legitimate challenge, a negotiator has to find a resolution which enables the professional person to save face, to avoid simply agreeing that s/he made an unfair or unjust judgment, discriminated against someone or otherwise behaved badly.

From “White Woman Feminist” by Marilyn Frye, in her book Willful Virgin: Essays in Feminism (Crossing Press, 1992)

Originally published on FR 1/13/2008

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