Today, in class, I had a revelation; I have more implicit biases than I originally thought. When we were discussing Tom Buchanan’s whiteness, I raised my hand after Professor Boutelle asked how we know Tom is white. In my head, I thought ‘this is a no-brainer.’ My first indication of Tom’s whiteness was his straw-colored hair. I explained that straw-colored indicates blond to me and that blond hair is associated with those who have white skin. After providing my reasoning to the class, I stated that I knew I was stereotyping and it made me uncomfortable. Professor Boutelle addressed my discomfort by stating it was normal. It was the next question that really triggered my “aha moment”: what biases do we have that make us think of straw-haired as blond rather than as textured?
I started to think about why I hadn’t thought about the texture of straw when evaluating Fitzgerald’s description of Tom Buchanan. Why had no one else ever asked me the same question? I have read The Great Gatsby before in high school. My sophomore year literature class was focused strictly on American literature; my teacher picked The Great Gatsby to highlight the decline of the American Dream, a common theme. As I start to remember the class more thoroughly, I am curious why our discussion of the American Dream never included the topic of white privilege and supremacy. Because the characters in Fitzgerald’s novel have the ability to purchase whatever they please, there is no reason to ascend in American society. But, why have I never learned about the close relationship between conspicuous consumption and whiteness?
Perhaps I am not the only one who has been so ignorant. Growing up in a predominantly white community, there is still a hesitation to question white superiority. Why would we want to question something that allows us to have such privileged lives? I think this has put me at a disadvantage to understanding other cultures.
After rereading this blog post, it doesn’t seem to have an order to it. Each question is only answered with more questions. I think that is because race is something we have created as humans to justify inequality. There are no concrete answers when it comes to race because race isn’t real.