You might say that gravity as a force (of attraction towards the earth) acts on us democratically. It doesn’t distinguish between anything or anyone. It just does its work.

But in questions of race, gravity sees colour:

No number of exciting black cultural artefacts can fight the pervasive gravity of default whiteness.

Jeffrey Boakye1

Much of what drives our interest in this research is the idea and experience of default whiteness.

because whiteness is privileged over colour, the norm is to never call attention to whiteness itself in ways that make white people uncomfortable. It’s expected, of course, to routinely draw attention to male and white and heterosexual people, since our society is centred on and identified with those groups. But that differs from drawing attention to ‘male,’ ‘heterosexual,’ or ‘white’ as social categories that are problematic.2

– Allan Johnson

Although Allan Johnson uses the word norm instead of default, it is the same thing. Whiteness is the invisible norm or default against which all others are made visible.


  2. Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. New York: McGraw-Hill Humanities, 2001, p.133.