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Gerald Torres
 

Abstracted from: Gerald Torres, Understanding Patriarchy as an Expression of Whiteness: Insights from The Chicana Movement , Washington University Journal of Law and Policy 129-172, 129-130 (2005) (233 Footnotes omitted)

 

One of the arguments that Professor Guinier and I make in The Miner's Canary is that whiteness is a social and political category that groups (or individuals) inhabit. Whiteness is measured by distance from blackness. While this may seem like a binary construction, it is instead better understood as a continuum based on the historical structure of race management in the United States. As such it is both an ascriptive and descriptive category. As a descriptive category, it can be adopted by individuals even if that identity is at odds with the larger social category applied to their group. For example, an individual member of an ethnic group like Mexican-American or Cuban-American might think of and even publicly identify his or herself as "white," even though he or she is "Hispanic" or "Latino," broadly considered to be non-white. There are several phenomena at work here--not just self-description, but also the experience of an "other" description. That is, one might be "white," "Hispanic," and "non-white" all at the same time, but is rarely called on to enact the social meaning of each of those categories at once. Because of this, the political dimension of race becomes one of its most salient attributes.

Race, of course, is but one aspect of the self or of political or social categorization. Class and gender relations (in addition to other considerations) also combine to structure social relations and individual consciousness. One of the questions that feminists like Catharine MacKinnon and Marylyn Frye asked early on was whether patriarchy has a color. This is not as simple or as odd a question as it might first appear. What this question asks is whether the pattern of racial management is structurally similar to or part of the system of gender management, and vice versa.

This paper examines this question through the lens of the early Chicano movement and the emergence of Chicana feminism, with its resistance to patriarchy as well as to white supremacy. Chicana feminism, both in its later form, but more importantly in its nascent or inchoate form, represented a challenge to the racial politics of the Chicano movement. This confrontation emerged through a resistance to the sexual roles that developed during this period.


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