Is White Paint Racist?

I’ve just spent a week in a very white place. The snow fell solidly for two days, and everything was white – the air, the ground, the trees, the streets. And to complete the picture, the houses, in the little seaside town south of Oslo, blended in perfectly, being painted pure, brilliant white. When I got back to a green(ish) Scotland, I didn’t sigh with relief, “Thank goodness, I’m finally out of that racist hellhole.” But perhaps I should have.

According to Norwegian academics, “whiteness” and “white supremacy” are terms to take literally, and the colour white, in particular the white paint that is so commonly used on Norwegian houses, equals racism. Had it been the first of April, I would have assumed this was a hoax, but alas this is serious, state-funded stuff.

From the research project ‘How Norway Made the World Whiter (NorWhite)’ co-authored by Ingrid Haland, an associate professor at the University of Bergen, we learn that:

Whiteness is one of today’s key societal and political concerns. Within and beyond academia worldwide, actions of revolt and regret seek to cope with our racial past. In the pivotal works in whiteness studies within art and architecture history, whiteness is understood as cultural and visual structures of privilege. The new research project ‘How Norway Made the World Whiter’ (NorWhite) funded by the Research Council of Norway (12 million NOK), addresses a distinctively different battleground for politics of whiteness in art and architecture. Two core premises underpin the project: Whiteness is not only a cultural and societal condition tied to skin colour, privileges, and systematic exclusion, but materialise everywhere around us. Second, one cannot understand this materialisation without understanding the societal, technological and aesthetic conditions of the colour itself.

Following this inane logic, I should be ashamed at owning a white house, but perhaps pleased that my parents’ cabin in the mountains is painted brown? Or is that cultural appropriation?

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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