It is not a term I recall seeing as much a decade ago as I do now, but that appears to be due to a lack of awareness on my part rather than a recent explosion in its usage:
Part of my ignorance is probably due to political persuasion. The top five states in terms of relative search volume for “whiteness” reveal it to be something liberal whites appear to be the most interested in:
Relative search volume correlates with Hillary Clinton’s share of the vote at a pretty robust .60, and that’s with a handful of small states–Alaska, Montana, West Virginia, Wyoming, Idaho, both Dakotas (states that gave little support to Clinton), and Hawaii (which gave her plenty of support but hardly on account of white liberals)–excluded from the regression on account of not registering at all because of lack of search volume interest.
Parenthetically, the spike in 2014 appears to coincide with something called the “Whiteness Project“, a two-part series produced for PBS and directed by Whitney Dow. It looks interesting. Watching the trailer, it’s hard to believe this was something commissioned by PBS just five years ago. Those seem like the halcyon days of candor by comparison. Many of these takes would today be portrayed in the media as flirting with white supremacy, and giving them a platform–even if the ultimate purpose was to discredit–of questionable utility at best.
There is a revolving interactive module containing quotes from project participants in their teens and twenties. One young man says, “I have to hide who I am”. Another, “I feel more comfortable around people of my race”. Still another, “I don’t feel guilty”. The next, “I don’t feel personally responsible for racism”. And the one that really sets off alarm bells, “Being white definitely has value to me”. There are a handful of responses that trend in a direction that will make PBS audiences more comfortable, like “I would be in jail if I was not white” (if physiognomy is real, he looks like he could be telling the truth!) and “there is so much privilege I have”, but the anti-anti-white perspectives comprise a plurality.
Participants’ pictures are included. It doesn’t seem inconceivable that statements like these will preclude some of those having made them from elected office in the future.