White people are to blame for two Indian students allegedly assaulting a group of African-American girls at a high school football game in New Jersey, according to a column posted Saturday in the New York Times.
From The New York Times:
A Racist Attack Shows How Whiteness Evolves
An assault at a New Jersey high school football game had an unexpected cast of characters.
By Nell Irvin Painter
Dr. Painter is the author of “The History of White People.”
Oct. 26, 2019, 10:00 a.m. ET
While it’s tempting to see the reported ethnicity of the boys suspected in the assault as complicating the story and raising questions about whether the assault should be thought of as racist, I look at it through a different lens. Instead of asking what the boys’ reported racial identity tells us about the nature of the attack, we should see the boys as enacting American whiteness through anti-black assault in a very traditional way. In doing so, the assailants are demonstrating how race is a social construct that people make through their actions. They show race in the making, and show how race is something we perform, not just something we are in our blood or in the color of our skin.
At first blush, this reported assault sounds nauseatingly familiar, like the run-of-the-mill American racial harassment that has always been common but has become increasingly revealed thanks to videos shared on social media. The boys’ actions resemble those of people who feel empowered to act out their resentment against nonwhite people who are deemed out of place, confronting them with hostility or slurs or calling the police. The people patrolling what they see as their spaces are often — but not always — white. The Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson calls areas that are policed in this way, “the white space,” even though the spaces in question are officially public. The experiences of black people accused of these purported infractions have acquired a panoply of names that capture the absurdity of facing such hostility while innocently carrying out everyday activities: driving while black, barbecuing while black, walking while black, sitting at home while black. The encounters often end with violent — too often, fatal — outcomes.
In the New Jersey incident, the heritage or skin color of the boys suspected of the assault doesn’t matter. What matters is that they were participating in this pattern and thus enacting whiteness in a very traditional way.