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I argue that Frankenberg is critical of, rather than apologetic for, white racism and her work in fact is a scathing indictment of the structures of dominance that have resulted from skin color differentiations. I argue further that Frankenberg explores the themes of race, gender and class vis a vis whiteness not as independent from each other, but as overlapping structures of oppression and exploitation that must be addressed and resisted together. She surfaces, to paraphrase May (1999:4) the hegemonic processes that lead to the universalization and normalization of whiteness and the “othering” of non-whiteness.
It is telling that Frankenberg begins with the admission that she had at first considered race far removed from her work as a Marxist Feminist. To quote her, “I saw racism as entirely external to me, a characteristic of extremists or of the British State, but not a part of what made me or what shaped my activism.” (53) Her race consciousness was triggered by the observation that unlike those she campaigned in the All-Cambridge campaigns who were whites like her, those she worked alongside in the feminist movement in the United States were “lesbian women of color and white working class women” (54) – bringing forth a heterogeneity that demonstrated the unities and linked experiences of women from all over.
From this early experience, Frankenberg developed a critical perspective towards race and saw whiteness as a category that bestows “structural advantage” and “privilege” (55) and as a “place from which to look at oneself, others and society.” In her work at looking at white women’s childhoods, Frankenberg saw how race was used as an organizing device to bestow or deny privilege; to include or exclude. In a way, therefore, it becomes inextricable with class – particularly when race becomes the determinant of conferring economic benefit.
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What are its implications for race, gender, and class? Do you think Frankenberg is apologetic or white racism or the opposite? Provide argument and illustration for the position you take.
Ruth Frankenberg takes off her…
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