White People Are Getting Whiter

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I recently decided to buy a new brand of mouthwash. Not because of any breath odor deficiencies that I’m aware of, but because it said on the bottle that it also made teeth whiter and I’m grown and I already get salmon with my side salads so why not splurge for the nuclear mouthwash too?

So I bought it and used it every day for a week straight, waiting for it to Taylor Swift my teeth, but I didn’t see any difference. Dejected, I shared this sentiment with my wife, who looked at me and (very obviously) wanted to say, “You gotta be the dumbest nigga I’ve ever married” but instead actually said, “You need perspective. Of course, you don’t notice anything because you’re looking at them every day. That’s why people take before and after pics.”

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“Oh,” I replied. And then I went to toast a waffle.

Anyway, between the new baby thing and the I’M ABOUT TO DROP A BOOK (which you can preorder here!!!) thing, I haven’t been as connected to the news and pop culture in 2019 as I usually am. But I did manage to find some space this week to get back into the groove, and among other things, this perspective has led me to a harrowing conclusion: White people are getting whiter.

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Not literally whiter. I don’t think we’re in danger of having an entire racial demographic of white walkers. But, like, culturally whiter. Spiritually whiter. Metaphysically whiter. More likely to be the whitest Samaritans. More prone to random acts of whiteness. More invested in expanding the “that’s some white-ass shit” spectrum. This is spectrum-stretching whiteness.

To wit, in the last week alone we’ve had 1) an Alabama newspaper editor ask for the Klan to return and ride on Washington, 2) a member of the Coast Guard with a kill list longer than Beatrix Kiddo’s, 3) Burberry essentially whispering “Bless your little racist hearts” at Gucci, 4) Miley Cyrus deciding to return to her “hip-hop” roots, which is like lint deciding to return to an exasperated sweater, and 5) an Arkansas politician arguing that starving the students might be the best way to raise test scores.

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Before the whitening, each of these instances would’ve represented that week’s Caucastic Peak. But now they’re footnotes; squirts of mayo amidst a raging sea of Hellmann’s. By next Monday, even whiter things are likely to happen, and this week’s events will be forgotten.

Of course, you can blame the purging of this Pandora’s Box on the president, a man whose entire existence is an exercise in whiteness spectrum stretching, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But I think something less immediate and more existential is also happening here. The compulsion to be transparently and unambiguously racist is thickening; it’s almost like—for the whitening whites—racism is like a burp bubbling in their esophaguses (or is it esophagi?) that they just can’t suppress any longer. And I think, for them, it just feels good. 

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A more optimistic way of assessing this burgeoning whiteness is likening it to a peak temperature of a fever about to break. Maybe the whitening is just the last function of the life cycle of this sickness. I don’t know. I do know that I still can’t tell if my mouthwash is working. All this spectrum shifting jacked up my perspective. Goodbye!

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About the author

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB and a columnist for GQ.com. His debut memoir in essays, What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins), is available for preorder.