white gaze

/wyte geyz/  
noun. the lens through which caucasian individuals view, describe, and depict people of color.

The white gaze has been the subject of many Black writers’ works such as Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, bell hooks, and James Baldwin. The white gaze goes hand in hand with implicit and racial bias. Everybody has implicit bias. Some white individuals expect performances from POC, something that could possible confirm what they think about Black and Brown identity. This leads to stereotyping and micro- and sometimes macro-aggressive behavior. Throughout this project, I will use the term ‘micro-transgression’ rather than micro-aggression because when these acts are committed, they’re usually unintentional.
    There are many culprits to blame for reinforced stereotypes such as familial teaching and the media. Examples of these harmful stereotypes include “Black-on-Black crime”, the deadbeat Black father, Black people being seen as hypersexual, female-bodied Black individuals being seen as physically and socially more mature than other races, Black women described as “angry”, to name a few.

The white gaze affects all areas of life: education, the workforce, beauty, and the media.

Where education is concerned, racial bias is seen in the gerrymandering of district lines or “Redlining”, the lowering of expectations of Black and Brown students, and dess code policies that specifically target minority students. 
   Redlining affects more than just education. It also prevents minorities from being able to establish generational wealth. BIPOC have also been denied access to specific loans throughout history, particularly house loans. Black and Brown homeownership is the lowest in the nation. Homeownership is one of the primary methods of building wealth in this capitalistic society. Houses within Black and Brown communities have historically been priced lower than those within predominantly White areas. When one looks at HOLC maps, the red areas (predominantly minority populations) have terms like “risky” or “hazardous” associated with them.

HOLC map of New Orleans, LA

    White bias makes it difficult for BIPOC job seekers to attain employment. This is due to White employers’ assumption that Black and Brown individuals are a dangerous, aren’t the “right fit” for their brand, or they don’t hold the same amount of intelligence as them. If a BIPOC individual is hired, often times they are paid quite a bit less than their White counterparts, roughly 34% less according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    The media is notorious for painting marginalized peoples in a negative light. Let us reflect on the inception of the fight for Black Lives. This movement “began” in the midst of numerous killings of unarmed Black and Brown individuals by the police, although there isn’t a defined start date. The protests that occur as a result of these incidents are typically described as “out of order” and “violent” by popular, typically conservative news networks such as Fox. Most of these protests don’t start out violently. It is usually the White fear presented by officers that causes these senarios to escalate.

    In film, there is a lack of representation of people of color. The representations that exist usually sum up the entire Black community as under-achieving and vulgar. Public perceptions and attitudes toward Black people not only help to create barriers to social advancement, but also make that position seem natural or inevitable.
    For hundreds of years, melanated bodies have been compared to those of European descent, giving way to the rise of colorism. Black features such as curly/kinky hair and darker skin are considered unattractive according to European beauty standards.

an ad for Nadinola bleaching cream

    Colorism is also heavily prevelant within the film and television industries. This goes all the way back to the beginning of film. When people of color finally began appearing on the screen, they were mostly of a lighter complexion. Another cause of this is due to the technology available at the time. People of darker skin tones were harder to see on film. It wasn’t until people complained about not being able to capture their furniture on camera that a film roll was developed to support darker tones. See the short documentary by Vox  below. 

Colorism is still present today. The belief that racial ambiguity and lighter skin is more marketable blocks many darker-skinned visibly Black talent from attaining opportunities.

I’m giving you all this information because...

We want you to be a better ally to us.

We want you to be a good friend. We want you to do better. You are capable of doing such. I have no intention of attacking white people. I just want to present an alternative perspective. If this project seems like an attack on your morals and feelings, maybe you should ask yourself why these statements make you feel the way you do.


noun: prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

BIPOCnoun: acronym for Black, Indigenous Person of Color

Black countergaze
noun: also known as “the Black gaze”, an oppositional gaze with regard to Black people.

Black double-consciousness noun: the internal conflict experienced by subordinated groups in an oppressive society; looking at one’s self through the eyes of white individuals.

micro-transgression noun: a statement, action, or incident regarded as indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group.

macro-aggression noun: large-scale or overt aggression toward those of a certain race, ethnicity, culture, gender, etc.

racial profiling verb: the use of race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense.

Black criminality noun: the stereotype of Black individuals being seen as criminals and being prone to violence.

White privilege noun: inherent advantages possessed by a White person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.

White guilt noun: the individual or collective guilt felt by some white people for harm resulting from racist treatment of ethnic minorities.

color-blindness adjective: an ideal in society in which skin color is insignificant; the belief that persons should be judged not by their skin color but rather by “the content of their character”; an ideal deemed offensive by BIPOC individuals.

European beauty standards noun, plural: a set of standards mandates that whiteness and the features associated with it is the ideal; similar to featurism.

colorism noun: prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group.

featurism noun: society’s accepting or preferring of certain features over others (i.e. European features over African features).

code switching verb: the practice of alternating between two or more languages or varieties of language in conversation. People of color employ this method in order to seem presentable to white audiences.

exotification noun: from exotify: to treat as exotic.

fetishization noun: making (something or someone) the object of a sexual fetish; have an excessive and irrational commitment to or obsession with (something or someone).

otherization noun: from otherize. To make or regard (a person, social group, etc.) as alien or different.

systematic racism
noun: a form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions; reflected in areas of wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power, education, etc.

A Reading From Look, A White!
by George Yancy
Look, a White! returns the problem of whiteness to white people. Prompted by Eric Holder's charge, that as Americans, we are cowards when it comes to discussing the issue of race, noted philosopher George Yancy's essays map out a structure of whiteness.

Download the full book here: