It might not be a coincidence that white people are better at whitewashing things than pretty much anyone else. Originally, “whitewashing” (coined in 1591 in England) was pretty direct in its meaning. One whitewashed walls to clean them of everything not white resulting in a satisfying. uniform whiteness. A whitewashed cottage was easier on the eyes — especially white eyes. In a way, whitewashing things was a way to impose literal whiteness into an environment. Or onto it. And then something really strange happens when white people see a representation of their own whiteness staring back at them. To them, that whiteness is their own innocence of all charges; it’s a mythology built on an actual cover up — a few quick brush strokes of white paint to obliterate a long history of treating every other tribe on Earth like inferiors.
Up until very recently, white people in America got away with whitewashing America’s history. Example — though the Confederacy lost a war they started over slavery (according to their own secession documents), they won the peace afterwards by whitewashing their racism into a more patriotic-sounding concern for “states’ rights”. As in “we seceded to protect states’ rights!” Shame “states’ rights” isn’t mentioned in a single Confederate state’s declaration of secession. That bit of whitewashing happened later.
That’s how whitewashing works. White people come out looking better than they deserve to look. The whitewashing hides the truth — of who they are, what they’ve done and (most importantly) what they intend to do having deceived most people into thinking this love of whiteness in our culture was a stone cold fact of life. It most certainly is not.
Try as they have to whitewash American culture, white people keep appropriating every other culture into white culture because white culture in fact craves the “colors” all those other cultures exude. But white hegemony is a hard habit to break. Especially because it’s built so high upon a foundation of bullshit. White hegemony assumes the total superiority of white culture. It assumes white religion is the correct religion. White thoughts are the best thoughts. White art is real art while other art is “folk art”. White music is “music” while “other music” — jazz, for instance — is noise. White hegemony also insists that the only history worth noting in America is white history. No other tribe’s history in America matters.
To white people, that is. They even managed to memorialize this as a fraction: Black people were worth three-fifths of a white person.
White people really have taken that “whiteness” to heart. They really do see purity in it. Brides wear white — because pure. Whiteness says “Life!” while blackness says “death”. The colors themselves don’t say anything. We imposed those meanings onto the colors.
Want to know what scares white people in America more than anything? The words on our own Great Seal: “E Pluribus Unum” Out of many, one. Diversity has always been our secret sauce — what really and truly makes America exceptional because no other country on earth was built by ALL the other nations on earth the way America was. “E Pluribus Unum” beats the crap out of “All men are created equal” because the white men who penned “All men are created equal” didn’t mean “all men” though they did mean “all” (as in only) “men”. America is a great idea as yet unrealized. Because white people.
Whitewashing’s effect on our culture are profound. We revised genocide (wiping out most of America’s native people) as “Manifest Destiny” — the divine guidance by a white deity to spread whiteness across North America. We both enslaved Black people literally then enslaved them indirectly by stealing their voting rights and their wealth. Slavery begins with stolen labor — that’s really the whole point of slavery: to get production’s most expensive cost — the labor to make a product or process it — for free. Housing, food and clothing are a slaver’s “cost of doing business”. We have to assume the value of the stolen labor surpassed whatever the living costs were by a ton because the Confederacy (whose entire economy was built on stolen slave labor) was willing to fight a war over it.
In our whitewashed version of history, Reconstruction never happened; it did happen but Andrew Johnson and the South’s undampened racism despite losing the war killed Reconstruction dead before it could level the playing field for Black people in America. Our whitewashed history wants us to believe that Black people never achieved what white people achieved in America because of their blackness. The truth is, white people in America have always begrudged Black people (or any non-white people) any success here in America. Having political power in their hands, white people have used legislation to enforce their whitewashed version of America onto America.
They’ve used the courts to back up their whitewashing. They’ve used the culture and the media to imprint into our brains.
White people have even whitewashed the language. I don’t know about you, but it makes me laugh (not in a good way) every time the news media bleeped “bad words” from their air whenever they broadcast scenes from the insurrection. That is because white ears are delicate. Having convinced themselves that only “others” use “dirty” words while white people use good words (raising up the language!), we’ve convinced ourselves that words are obscene while actions — like insurrection, sedition and treason — aren’t. But then, I guess if insurrection, sedition and treason are being perpetrated by white people?
It’s no biggie. Hell, the Republicans have already begun whitewashing January 6 — just like they’ve obstructively whitewashed the fact that but for Russia, Donald Trump would NEVER have become POTUS.