Swedish Minister of Culture perform a clitoridectomy
From All Africa, "South Africa: The Whiteness Smorgasbord," by Gillian Schutte, on 20 APRIL 2012 -- The horrified astonishment at the recent cake-eating debacle has shaken up the world and brought the issue of racism to the fore once again this year.
The social media world went into shock this week, as they beheld the Swedish Minister of Culture perform a clitoridectomy on the sculpted vulva of a human sized cake, which took the shape of an African woman undergoing forced genital mutilation. She then fed it to the black-faced artist who screamed in agony as she sliced through the baked labium - much to the amusement of the white guests. The inside of the cake was blood red and the guests smiled and ate of the black female cake-body, seemingly oblivious to the macabre nature of the whole affair.
The response from women all over the world was visceral. They called it racist, misogynistic and hateful. Many black women expressed outrage and hurt, given the historical referencing to the Sartjie Baartman narrative.
As a white woman I was sickened to the core and momentarily at a loss for words - and it was this response that got me thinking about how deep the construct of whiteness really goes. It took me a while to grasp that the horrible, misdirected and grotesque tastelessness of this gastronomic protest art actually successfully made a point about whiteness.
It exposed the European cake eaters as savage in their non-responsiveness to the horror of the act in which they willingly participated, apparently ignorant to the notion that the 'art' was in the observation of their behaviour. This, I think, is what was so disturbing to the white gaze, which was forced to gaze upon whiteness and try to make sense of the primal nature of it all.
It disturbed the white certainty of rationality and possibly pointed to our own complicity in the insulting and grossly insensitive act of the eating of an African woman's most private body parts in what became a reversal of the anthropological participant observation ethos.
It certainly got me thinking about my own upbringing in a country that was built upon the dehumanisation of black people whilst I was trying to make sense of what appeared to be an uncanny physical manifestation of feminist writer bell hooks' thesis on Eating the Other. I was forced to ask myself if it is really possible for those of us who grew up white in South Africa to fully transcend the inevitable unconscious hold of the whiteness construct, even those of us who are in interracial relationships.
Furthermore how much does the same macabre insensitivity to blackness play out in the day-to-day lives of white South Africans that we may also be oblivious to? ...
... Despite their polite liberal façade, the white folk that populate this class most often secretly believe that black people are not nearly as learned as themselves and that they lack the type of leadership skills needed to run these institutions. Thus they often set about sabotaging the black folk in these positions of power by withdrawing their moral support and using subtle and insidious put-downs camouflaged as supportive language. Behind closed doors though, and safely with 'their own', they openly critique blackness with smug little laughs and comically raised eyebrows and nudge-nudge wink-wink commentary, in a sort of 'having their cake and eating it' ritual.
When they are called to book they draw upon their vociferous 'hegemony-denial' and make up nonsensical and expedient new terms such as 'black supremacy' whilst conjuring up new fields of learning aimed at disproving their 'god-given' privilege.
This is white dominion at its best.
As someone who grew up inside the construct of whiteness, that for over four decades has dished me up a platter of privileges which I've oft imagined I have long since rejected - my disgust at the black minstrel female cake eating debacle has, incongruously, also left me asking the hardest question of all -- is it possible for white people, myself included, to ever fully transcend the whiteness construct or are we all vulnerable to being exposed and tripping over our own unconscious programming by some genius provocateur? [source: All Africa]