Universalism is utilized as a philosophical and racialized mental “trap” quite often.
I have white friends who call themselves individuals. Who tell me that they’ve never thought of themselves as being a part of a “white race”. Or any group. And they sometimes even ask me why black people seem to think this way, exist as some sort of group-mind? These friends have never had to think about other white people as being related to them in any way, or consider how they will be seen or considered by non-whites based upon the actions of other whites.
These folks are truly friends. But what I explain to them is that this ability of theirs to “not” see themselves as white or consider it during the course of living their lives is a part of the privilege that white supremacy imbues upon them as the privileged ethnicity under the white supremacy system. I certainly do not have that privilege. I am black first, an individual later, if I am lucky. This privileged viewpoint casts the sheen of “universality” upon the experience of whiteness. It’s why movies about Egyptians can be cast with mostly white actors and nobody notices until it is all done. Then, “Oops. Mea culpa.” Why Jesus, can be blond-haired and blue-eyed, even though we know he couldn’t have been. Why aboriginal people in America are still, to this day, called Indians.
It’s how books and TV shows and documentaries can talk about the European viewpoint of the world as if it is the only viewpoint worth seeing the world through. Those of us who are not white learn about this viewpoint early in life, while retaining our colored and cultured viewpoint as well. It’s called double-consciousness, coined by WEB Dubois, and we move back and forth between the perspectives as necessary. If you’re interested, Fanon’s “Black Skin, White Masks” is a great primer.
This illusion of universalism that has been applied to the “white gaze” is somewhat quantum-like in nature. It is exemplified by the double-slit experiment, where subatomic particles moved thru one, both or neither of two slits in a wall depending upon whether or not there was an observer. The “white gaze” is the observer perspective that imbues meaning, importance, weight, upon that which is viewed. Without that attention, all is left in the state of quantum superposition, all potentialities inherent simultaneously operant, non manifested. Deterministic philosophies of meaning from the cosmogonal worldviews of the 18th century European Geographers and…