Skip to main content
Login | Suomeksi | På svenska | In English

Is There Anything Good About Whiteness? : A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Relationship Between the Concept of Race and Power

Show full item record

Title: Is There Anything Good About Whiteness? : A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Relationship Between the Concept of Race and Power
Author(s): Omwami, Päiviö Maurice
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in Philosophy
Specialisation: Practical Philosophy
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2022
Racism continues to be both a widely discussed topic and continuing problem within many of our societies. Yet, most of the mainstream discourse on race lacks any reference to the actual concept of race itself. This has led to a situation in which racism is understood as systematic discrimination but race itself is generally treated as a neutral and unproblematized identity category instead of a political system of oppression. In this master’s thesis I will examine the ontological relationship between the concept of race and power. The main goal is twofold. Firstly, I will show that the relationship between race and power is an inherent one. Secondly, I will show that it is not only possible but necessary to take Whiteness as a vantage point as we examine this relationship. For while we are generally accustomed to approach the topic of racism and racial injustice through the experiences of people of color, Whiteness continues to remain in the margins of our political, social, and theoretical conversations. This, I claim, results from the normalization of Whiteness that has rendered White people unable to see how race functions and affects their daily lives. I will begin by briefly examining how the ideas of race and Whiteness were historically constructed and implemented as oppressive systems. This will help us establish that race was never discovered but constructed to serve a specific purpose. From here I move onto examine the relationship between race and power through the frameworks of class and state power. First, I look at Charles Mills’ argument for why racial power relations are distinct from and transcend those of class. After this I examine how Michel Foucault conceptualizes race as a necessary technology of power to the modern state. Then I move onto examine George Yancy’s method that not only forces Whites to see the workings of race but allows us to comprehend that there is no sense in making a distinction between “good” and “bad” White people. Finally, I present my own method of asking the ethically laden question: “Is there anything good about Whiteness?” I argue that any meaningful discussions on racism must theoretically examine the historical construction of race and the purposes that it has been used. For this reveals the ontological relationship between race and power as an inherent one. In addition, it is also crucial to comprehend that race is first and foremost a lived experience that affects the daily lives of countless people before any of our conceptual analysis. Thus, examining both the theoretical and the empirical level of race is a necessity for us to have any change to move beyond race. And I suggest that we start by asking “Is there anything good about Whiteness?” For an adequate answer to this question requires an understanding of what it is to be White. Which then necessitates a thorough theoretical understanding of the construction, history and workings of race.
Keyword(s): race racism Whiteness power critical philosophy of race political philosophy

Files in this item

Files Size Format View
Omwami_Paivio_M ... d-About-Whiteness_2022.pdf 1.050Mb PDF

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Show full item record