Essay on Whiteness in Danzy Senna’s Novel, Caucasia

Decent Essays

Danzy Senna’s Caucasia is a third wave feminist text that shows the reader how identities are socially constructed. It is a heartfelt story about the conflicts of an interracial family in an extremely racialised America during the 1970s. This novel treads on the border between whiteness and blackness through the standpoint of Birdie Lee. Birdie is able to manipulate her identity and fit into different spaces as required by her mother, Sandy Lee. Throughout the novel, the reader is shown how race is socially constructed, and how essentially everyone “pretends” in their life in order to fit certain situations. This essay will discuss how Birdie’s ability to disappear as Jesse Goldman is a curse because constructions around race take her …show more content…

Whiteness refers to structural advantage, to a set of practices (Frankenberg, 1993). She could have a new name, culture and life without being questioned. She enjoyed the unique ability of treading the colour line and is, in the second half, able to see life from the white gaze. She is able to pass off comfortably as a white daughter and thus allows her mother to settle down in New Hampshire. With this whiteness, Birdie also discovers a new sexuality as she hangs out with Mona. She gives up her identity as a black girl attending Nkrumah for dressing like a “girl”. As a white girl, Birdie is sought after and the center of attention. She is an object of desire instead of resentment, and this too is a privilege associated with her whiteness.
However, in her bedroom scene with Nicholas, Senna once again shows the reader that race is a social construction and never truly hides what one really is. When Nicholas notices Birdie’s moustache, he states that he likes it and that he could like her clean (Senna, 1998). This almost goes to say that Birdie’s traces of blackness can be wiped clean by whiteness, erasing her true identity with the fake one. In Hall’s article, he mentions that everyone is provided a fixed identity or identities. Living as Jesse, Birdie remade herself to suit her current cultural identity. This affected her to a deeper level; she started to forget who she really was and where she came from. She started to believe herself to

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