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Through the novel Birdie Lee challenges herself to confront her own awareness of self, to understand her families blackness through the gaze of whiteness. Birdies physical appearance is known as a straight hair and pale child, which gave her an identity that is more closely to the whiteness within her family. Whenever she is in the presence of both her father and Cole, she often felt that she disappeared and becomes invisible. Cole existence “was the proof that his blackness hadn’t been completely blanched” (Senna 1998, p.56).
In Representing Whiteness In The Black Imagination Hooks speaks of “white supremacist, white people can safely imagine that they are invisible to black people since the power they have historically asserted, and even now collectively assert over black people accorded them the right to control the black gaze” (Hooks, pg. 61). Meaning the invisibility and power that white people have gives them ability to control the black gaze. Birdie already has the power to disappear when she was either Birdie Lee or Jesse Goldman. She does not see this ability to disappear as a blessing or curse rather, as her access to whiteness making her question her blackness.
Sandy, Birdies mother were able to changes their identity to a widowed woman who was married to a now deceased Jewish husband while they were running from the Feds.
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Furthermore Birdie gradually begins to see herself as “a spy in enemy territory” (Senna, 1998, p.269) gaining an awareness of whiteness and white privilege as a normality. That later on shapes her world and identity.
It is because of Birdie’s appearance and her ability to pass as white that created a space for her as a radicalized body, allowing the dominant group of society to create her identity. Being the blend of both races Birdie was able to discover that everyone is not equal in terms of racialization but she still seeks acceptance and belonging in either white or black group. In the novel we see that Birdie does not hate either being considered black or white. She was willingly accepting of either group she is categorized since she is black and white.
The social construction and intersectionality of race, gender and class shaped Birdies experience of blackness and whiteness traits that she shared with her father and mother. Deck Lee who is Bardies father is aware that black people were objectified by the whites in order for the white to keep them in position of dominance; “white people find their power in invisibility, while the rest of us remain bodies for them to study and watch” (Senna, pg. 72). Hooks refers to these analysis as “looking relations”, (Hooks, pg. 61) which gooks refers to as demean and dehumanize of black; weakling their position and awareness in order not the challenge the white gaze.
Birdie has the ability to pass as a white person because that is the way society formed her identity due to her physical appearance. She also tends to disappear in wherever white dominated areas. She only exists internally and when she can identify with her mother or father.
Ruth Frankenberg mentions, “whiteness is a location of structural advantage, of a race privilege that is intrinsically linked to unfolding relations of domination” (Frankenberg, pg. 18). Also to look at the social construction of whiteness, then, is to look head on at a site of dominance” (Frankenberg, pg. 18) and “to speak of whiteness is to assign everyone a place in the relations of racism” (Frankenberg, pg. 18).
Therefore the social construction of whiteness framed the position that Birdie, Cole, Deck and Sandy found themselves placed, each in their ways trying to connect whiteness to black experience. Sandy without recognizing her privilege position using it to fight for civil rights; Birdie through the denial of her racial background; Deck using education to prove mythical norm and Cole using it to fight for her own connectedness while mirroring Birdies struggle to find her own identity.
Step 7: Conclusion
(Answer your thesis statement.) (Arrange everything in order to prove your point.)
Both Hooks and Frankenberg argues whiteness as terror and whiteness being location of structural advantage that formed the basis and analysis of Caucasia. In addition to knowing that whiteness is a social construct that feeds on racial difference for continual power and domination
Caucasia by Danzy Senna
White women, race matters: points of origin, points of departure - Ruth Frankenberg
Representing Whiteness in the black Imagination - Bell Hooks