One White Person’s Opinion on White Identity, White Privilege, and White Supremacy

We need to have a conversation about race.

A few months ago, I asked a few friends (of all races) to share their perspectives on race, power, and privilege.

You can read them here if you’d like.

A few weeks after that, I asked a few friends (who are white) if they’d share their perspective on white identity development, white supremacy, and white privilege.

I was a little nervous about asking because… umm… white supremacy?

No thanks, I’ll pass!

But low and behold, someone was actually willing.

If you are new to my site, I just want to give you a little context for the discussion.

I hope you’ll stay; I hope you’ll join me.

ONE: Outrage to Reform is somewhat of a personal/public diary, mixed with a few fun facts now and then.

When I started it, it was a hobby so that I could write more and write more often.

Now I use it to work through my thoughts and feelings on race, power, privilege, anger and productivity.

TWO: Perhaps understandably so, not everyone is interested in learning about race. Some people think race isn’t real, or that it doesn’t matter, or that people use it to scapegoat or play “the race card” when it suits them.

I’m a person of color born in the south, so I tend to disagree with these assertions. But the purpose of this blog isn’t to argue with you about it. The purpose is to be open to the conversation.

(Which you can do in the privacy of your home. LOL. I’ve disabled the comments intentionally because you won’t ruin my day with hate mail. Nope! Not today!)

You can always send me compliments and questions though.

Those are great!

THREE: Race is a social construction, which means it was made up. But even though it was made up, it matters.

In the United States race (and skin color) has implications for your life expectancy, wealth, health, annual income, educational level, etc. It even has implications for your safety.

It matters because nationalism, bigotry, prejudice, and genocide still exist.

If you don’t agree with these truths, or you’re not willing to learn more about the perspectives of people of color, this blog isn’t for you.

Thanks for stopping by!

FOUR: I think there’s a danger in studying white power and white supremacy because there are still people who believe that racial hierarchy actually should exist.

Some will be moved by it and want to return to the time when lynchings were part of a balanced breakfast and the KKK ran rampant. (Wait, that sounds like today….)

People of color may experience trauma all over again. They may internalize what we’ve learned from history and what the present continues to show us.

Yet and still, I aspire to create a dialogue that presents different perspectives. These posts are meant to be educational (if I’m lucky) and insightful (if I’m doing an even better job).

I hope you re-examine your assumptions and re-evaluate your fears.

I’m hoping to create a space to talk about race and power gracefully– which may prove impossible or counter-productive. The struggle!

We can always try though, right?

Peace and Love!

With no further ado, here’s One White Person’s Opinion on White Identity, White Privilege, and White Supremacy.

Is white supremacy real? Is white privilege real?

Yes.  There are still people that have been raised to believe that they are superior to others.

What do you think of when you hear white privilege?

To be honest, I can’t help but feel a little defensive, at least subconsciously, even though I wholeheartedly believe it’s true and have had dialogues and done research and seen it in action.

I think it’s become such a charged phrase that white people feel personally attacked, although the phrase really describes something much more systemic in nature.

White culture in America (broadly speaking, of course) has such a focus on personal responsibility and when viewing the world through this lens it’s hard not to take things personally.  I suppose part of it comes down to the fact that humans don’t want to give up comfort and stability and acknowledging injustice means having to work/change/confront harsh realities that would pull them out of that comfort zone.

I don’t like learning that by doing nothing I am, in fact, contributing to a problem.  I don’t like knowing that through no individual actions of my own I have benefited from past injustices that have given me advantages.  Yet I have to accept that fact if we are to move forward.

Can you group all white people into one culture?

I don’t think so, but with a caveat.  Whites group themselves, some of which might include Italians, Midwesterners, Hipsters (or whatever Hipsters call themselves), etc. and that is just the U.S.

However, I do think there is an underlying, overarching, something that could be called white culture in the U.S.  These are the things that white people take for granted, but can’t really define; that are understood at a base level, but not really known.   Not sure if that makes sense, but…

How would you define privilege?

Prof. Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, defines it as “a set of unearned assets that a white person in America can count on cashing in each day but to which they remain largely oblivious.”

I probably would just butcher a definition myself.

What do you think of when you hear white supremacy?

The belief that white people are superior to other groups.

What does “white identity development” mean to you?

I had to look this one up, but I think it’s somewhat similar to how my identity as a white person has progressed.

It’s a difficult thing to realize that the culture you took for granted is not the only viable one.  It is even more difficult to acknowledge that by merely living into the dominant culture, you can perpetuate racism.

This is especially hard when learning that so many white male hero/role models / leaders were not really very good models after all (think Columbus, John Smith, and so on).

And finally, it is extremely difficult, after having learned all of the above, to see yourself or white culture as having anything good to offer without somehow oppressing or patronizing someone else.

I think this leads a lot of white people to retreat from meaningful dialogue, unfortunately.  For instance, I don’t know how many times I’ve revised my answers to these questions for fear of perhaps saying something offensive or that could be taken the wrong way.

I still fear. 🙂

I think what ultimately helped me the most to understand my identity better were non-white friends that took the time to explain things to me, talk to me, argue (gently) with me, and most importantly not give up on me.

Why does white supremacy exist?

I don’t even know where to start.  Fear, history, power, opportunism, politics have all played / play a part, but I don’t think there’s an easy answer.

If white privilege is real, why does it exist?

I think white privilege is something that has built up for years (centuries) in this country and the western world and can’t just be eradicated with a change in the law.

There are deep seeded perceptions that affect, sometimes knowingly, sometimes not, how people of color and especially African Americans are viewed.

These range from overt (being stopped and frisked for a minor traffic violation) to powerfully subtle (white culture is displayed everywhere as being the normal and accepted way in media, education, and practically every aspect of American life).

Are white privilege and white supremacy “behind” the recent detainment and separation of undocumented families? If so, why do you think so? If not, what is the root?

I think so, and more so with privilege.  If white privilege is brought about by white culture that has been cultivated for generations and is totally mainstream, then any group that could potentially disturb the status quo is seen as a threat.

Looking closer, there is not much of a backlash against Canadian or European immigrants.

Why? Because there is (perceived) similarity.  However, Mexican, South American, or Middle Eastern immigrants are different (or are at least perceived that way).

There is a fear that other cultures will change, or even replace, the current culture and the flames of that fear are certainly fanned in the media.

For instance, that someone would be required to learn Spanish or celebrate Ramadan or whatever. Of course, fears like this have been around since the beginning of civilization.

What would it take to end white privilege?

So many things… but I guess education might go the farthest.  By education I mean a number of things; better schools for all, better quality of education, more emphasis on presenting the truth from different angles, and learning more about each other to name some.

It’s hard to be optimistic, though.

What would it take to end white supremacy?

Again, education would help (including, of course, getting all white supremacist parents to stop teaching their children white supremacy), but….