Clean and White follows the historical conflation of whiteness and cleanliness across every aspect of society. As a reader, we see archival evidence of advertising techniques—postcards that claim a soap will wash a Black person’s skin so clean that it becomes white. We are invited to approach the inscription on the Statue of Liberty with new eyes, correlating immigrants to refuse even in an invitation to enter the land. We hear about public health and perception—including the former belief that disease was caused solely by bad odors rather than bacteria as scientists later came to understand. We are also shown statistics about the risk and illness associated with managing industrial society’s waste and how BIPOC are disproportionately affected. We see formative examples that are distilled down to the root sources of environmental racism. In doing so, we are equipped to view living dynamics in our current society with more nuance.
With many of our books on this list, The Kaleidoscapes are asserting that all people deserve an environment where they may thrive. But if the cleanliness of our biosphere is intermingled with the ideals of white supremacy, that future cannot be possible.
Even if you don’t choose to read this book, ask yourself: Who does your “dirty work?” And do you afford them full personhood or might your underlying beliefs consider them dirtier than you?
Our very first Book Club meeting will be held on August 4th at 5pm EST! Fill out this RSVP to join. There’s no expectation that you’ve already read one of the books.