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White Racial Identity Theories and Developmental Models.

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1 White Racial Identity Theories and Developmental Models

2 Socio-political definition of race Remember, race is: A socially constructed system of classifying individuals according to phenotypical characteristics that are genetically determined but not always consistent. “A concept which signifies and symbolizes social conflicts and interests by referring to different types of human bodies.” (Omi & Winant)

3 Who gets to define “whiteness”? “The colored people of this country know and understand the white people better than the white people will ever know and understand themselves.” -- poet and anthologist James Weldon Johnson (1912) “While the average Nordic knows nothing of how Negroes actually live and what they think, the Negroes know the Nordic intimately.” -- Black journalist and novelist George S. Schuyler (1927)

4 Whiteness as a group identity Four factors influence strength of racial/ethnic identity Size Power Discrimination Appearance Copyright Arunas Juska, Ph.D. http://core.ecu.edu/soci/juskaa/SOCI2110/Lectures/Race/sld007.htm

5 Whiteness as a group identity (cont.) Strengths of paradigm Acknowledges social construction of race Acknowledges political meaning of racial construction Acknowledges existence of racist institutions and racial socialization Limitations of paradigm Fails to recognize that all Whites benefit from white skin privilege Fails to acknowledge unintentional racism Fails to acknowledge “relative evil” of different racist behaviors Normalizes white racism, causing many to avoid dealing with the issue on both a personal and community level Does not recognize personal progress toward unlearning racism Does not prescribe any plan toward increasing social justice

6 Whiteness as an equivalent to racism James Baldwin: On Being “White” and Other Lies (1984) “Adopting and treasuring a white identity is absolutely a moral choice, since there are no white people….As long as you think you’re white, there is no hope for you.” “The cost of whiteness involves not only a struggle of whom to exclude from the private club of full humanity but of what huge sections of the human experience to exclude from one’s sense of self or visit surreptitiously after dark.” Noel Ignatiev, publisher of Race Traitor The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to a system that degrades them. The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in U.S. society. The existence of the white race depends on the willingness of those assigned to it to place their racial interests above class, gender, or any other interests they hold. When possible, it [Race Traitor] will support practical measures, guided by the principle, Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.

7 Whiteness as racism (continued) Strengths of paradigm Acknowledges social construction of race Acknowledges political meaning of racial construction Acknowledges existence of racist institutions and racial socialization Acknowledges that racism can be unintentional Acknowledges that all Whites benefit from white skin privilege Limitations of paradigm Does not acknowledge “relative evil” of different racist behaviors Blames and attacks white Americans, causing many well-intentioned to avoid dealing with the issue on both a personal and community level Does not recognize personal progress toward unlearning racism Does not recognize any societal progress, short of abolishing whiteness

8 Whiteness as privilege The privilege to be oblivious to, to ignore, or to deny the impact of race and racism in our society The privilege to surround oneself with members of own racial group, if one wants to do so The privilege of interacting with people in authority who are members of own racial group The privilege to be judged as a person, rather than be stereotyped as a member of a group And…The privilege to not have to wrestle over what it means to be white

9 Whiteness as privilege (continued) One of the important steps that whites must go through in learning about racism and their role in combating it is to recognize themselves as white. While...ethnic minorities are forced by their racial oppression to be aware of themselves as members of racial groups, whites generally have the luxury to feel "normal," not aware of their whiteness. Echols, Gabel, Landerman, & Reyes. (1988). An Approach for Addressing Racism, Ethnocentrism, and Sexism in the Curriculum. If we follow through on the self-reflexive nature of these encounters with Africanism, it falls clear: images of blackness can be evil and protective, rebellious and forgiving, fearful and desirable — all of the self-contradictory features of the self. Whiteness, alone, is mute, meaningless, unfathomable, pointless, frozen, veiled, curtained, dreaded, senseless, implacable. Or so our writers seem to say. Toni Morrison, from Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (New York:Vintage Books, 1993) p. 59. [Blacks are mired] in a very natural process of inversion in which we invert from negative to positive the very point of difference — our blackness — that the enemy used to justify our oppression....One of the many advantages whites enjoy in America is a relative freedom from the draining obligation of racial inversion. Whites do not have to spend precious time fashioning an identity out of simply being white. They do not have to self-consciously imbue whiteness with an ideology, look to whiteness for some special essence, or divide up into factions and wrestle over what it means to be white. Their racial collectivism, to the extent that they feel it, creates no imbalance between the collective and the individual. This, of course, is yet another blessing of history and of power, of never having lived in the midst of an overwhelming enemy race. Shelby Steele, The Content of Our Character (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990).

10 Whiteness as a developmental process Janet Helms’ (1990, 1995) White Racial Identity Model Assumes existence of white superiority and individual, cultural, and institutional racism. Sees white racial identity as an oppositional identity Assumes individuals start with a racist identity and must first move away from such an identity before they can develop a non-racist identity Assumes individuals can be in more than one “stage” at a time (i.e., have multiple statuses) Posits that different statuses are associated with different ways of processing racial data

11 White Racial Identity Development Contact Disintegration Reintegration Pseudo-Independent Immersion-Emersion Autonomy Six statuses of white racial identity (Helms, 1995) Abandonment of racism Redefining a positive White identity

12 Contact Passive lack of racial salience and awareness Unaware of most forms of racism Unaware of white-skin privilege (class exercise on Thursday) Unlikely to attend to or remember racial stereotypes Limited interactions with non-whites Most relationships with other Whites Exposure to people of color mostly vicarious (e.g., media) Possible cross-race friendships with “pre-encounter” people of color Naïve curiosity and/or timidity about people of color Color-blind philosophy and ideology Evaluates people of color with “white” criteria Responds to racism with denial Perpetrates racist behavior unknowingly (e.g., “You’re not like most Blacks)

13 Disintegration Increased awareness of racial inequalities Usually due to interactions with members of minority group Recognition of moral dilemmas associated with whiteness Freedom and democracy vs. racial inequality Individual merit vs. racial stereotypes Most relationships still with other Whites Cross-racial interactions feel threatening and increase anxiety Copes with discomfort by avoiding cross-racial interactions Tries to convince other Whites that people of color are not inferior Color-blindness no longer espoused Knowledge of racial inequality creates cognitive dissonance, which manifests in feelings of guilt, depression, helplessness, anxiety, discomfort, & resentment Seeks and attends to information to the effect that racism is not the White person’s fault or no longer exists

14 Reintegration (into “Whiteness”) Relatively good awareness of racial inequalities Members of minority groups blamed for inequalities Negative stereotypes about minority groups prominent Selective attention to information that confirms racial stereotypes Idealization of whiteness Endorsement of white superiority (e.g., intelligence) Strong preference for relationships with Whites Enjoyment of racist humor that promotes white superiority Guilt and anxiety transformed into fear and anger Active Expression: oppression, violence Passive Expression: avoidance of people and situations Possible endorsement of minority group superiority in domains that are usually considered of lesser importance

15 Pseudo-Independent Intellectual enlightment about racism Questions inferiority of (and stereotypes about) people of color Begins to acknowledge responsibility of Whites for racism Begins to realize how he/she may help perpetuate it Greater interaction with people of color Intellectual acceptance and curiosity about people of color Sincere desire to help people of color Focus on helping people of color meet majority group standards (become more white) Unaware that criteria may be inappropriate May be met with suspicion from both Whites and people of color (marginalization) May still unintentionally perpetrate racism

16 Immersion-Emersion Emotional intense period of “soul searching” for a healthy racial identity Focus shifts from changing people of color to changing self and other white people Honest reflection on what it means to be “white” in this country What is an appropriate personal response to racism? May be associated with some guilt, but dominant emotions are generally hope and motivation

17 Autonomy Internalization of healthy, positive, White identity. Race and people of color are no longer a threat No longer feels need to oppress or idealize people because of group membership Actively seeks to learn from other cultural/racial groups Increasingly aware of relatedness of various forms of oppression Ongoing racial self-actualization Guilt is replaced by motivation and commitment to fighting racism

18 Stages (Schemas) of White Racial identity Development Phase 1: Abandonment of Racism Phase 2: Defining a Nonracist White Identity DISINTEGRATION CONTACTREINTEGRATION AUTONOMY IMMERSION/ EMERSION PSEDO- INDEPENDENCE

19 Critiques of White Racial Identity Model 1. Erroneously based on racial/ethnic minority identity development models. 2. Too much emphasis on the attitudes toward minorities; not enough on attitudes toward self or own racial identity. 3. Linear development conceptually inaccurate 4. Implicit hierarchy based on creator’s ethics (Behrens & Rowe)

20 Double Consciousness “It is a peculiar sensation, this double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others…. One ever feels his twoness, -- an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body…” (Du Bois, 1903). White double consciousness exists too, but only in last two “stages” of development

21 Whiteness as a developmental process Strengths of paradigm Acknowledges social construction of race Acknowledges political meaning of racial construction Acknowledges existence of racist institutions and racial socialization Acknowledges that all Whites benefit from white skin privilege Acknowledges unintentional racism Acknowledges “relative evil” of different racist behaviors Normalizes internalization of racism without normalizing racism Prescribes plan toward becoming non-racist Recognizes personal progress toward unlearning racism Limitations of paradigm Assumes development begins at a particular point Fails to recognize influence of demographic and socializing factors Fails to prescribe plan toward increasing social justice


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