White is the new black: populism and the academic alt-right

Umut Ozkirimli - 02 January 2019

“It is our duty to expose this moral agenda for what it is, not by 'deplatforming' them – only adding victimisation to their already lavish arsenal – but through reasoned argument.”

Whitewashing, or the habit of casting white actors for minority roles, might have a long pedigree in Hollywood (some outlandish examples include John Wayne playing the role of Genghis Khan in 1956 or Laurence Olivier performing as Othello in blackface in 1965), but the use of the term is by no means limited to American mainstream movie-making.

Tracing its origins to the early eighteenth century, the Oxford English Dictionary defines whitewashing as the “attempt to free from blame; to provide with a semblance of honesty, respectability, rectitude, etc.” In addition to this more familiar meaning, the term also refers to the practice of covering “(the face, etc.) with make-up or a similar substance intended to make the skin look lighter.” One of the quotations OED has chosen to exemplify this particular meaning is quite revealing: “‘Why do you whitewash your face like that?’ he queried. ‘It’s just talcum powder,’ I muttered abashedly.”... See more

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