Letters to the Editor: How to define whiteness? White people can start with anti-racism

People protest in downtown Los Angeles at a demonstration calling for LAUSD school police to be defunded on June 16.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Columnist Frank Shyong calls on several different authors to help him try to define, “What does it mean to be white?” In the 1960s, Stokely Carmichael helped me define what it means to be Asian.

I heard Carmichael, now Kwame Ture, give a speech about Black Power in Watts. Of the many things he said that spoke to me was his admonition that Black people needed to redefine themselves, by themselves and for themselves. The result was the Black Power movement.

Of course not being Black, but at the time being referred to as Oriental, Mongolian or the default “other,” I and many of my contemporaries redefined ourselves as Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and the result was the Asian American Social Justice Movement (yes, there is such a thing).


Carmichael’s universal admonition still applies and could eventually be the answer to Shyong’s question. White people may be redefining themselves, and a part of that redefinition is being anti-racist.

Warren Furutani, Gardena


To the editor: In 1965, I drove from New York to Los Angeles with my college roommate. Before our return journey, we discussed going through the South since we were “Gone With the Wind” fans. We were in our early 20s and pretty stupid.

Our friends convinced us we were crazy. They told us the South was exploding in the summer of ‘65, and as white girls with pierced ears in a Volkswagen with Connecticut plates, we wouldn’t make it.

I was outraged that there was a place in America where I wouldn’t be safe. My outrage lasted about a day, and I got over it.

But just the other day it hit me: The fear I felt for one day is what Black people, especially Black men, live with on a daily basis. That is white privilege.


Barbara Beckley, Burbank