I Curse My Whiteness: An Introduction to and Thoughts on the Helm’s White Identity Model

I wonder how so many can be in so much pain,
while others don’t seem to feel a thing.
Then I curse my whiteness
and I get so damn depressed.
In a world of suffering,
why should I be so blessed?” -Brett Dennen, “There Is So Much More”

In my Multiculturalism class for grade school, we learned about racism, white privilege, racial identity models, and many other things. On a paper, I was asked to pick one of the white identity models with which I relate and to explain it. I went with Helm’s White Identity Model (below my thoughts on it) and where I find myself within the model. This isn’t a through treatment of the matter at hand, but I feel we white folks sometimes don’t recognize the problems surrounding race because privilege allows us to go about as if racism and racial issues where all solved in the 60s, which is far from true. This model is designed to help us see where  we are and where we need to be in order to move forward with people of all colors and races in our society. I share this because I believe race and racial issues demand we be vulnerable because hard conversations require being vulnerable. We have to expose what is dark to the light; exposure is never easy to do. I hope this will promote thought, conversation, and vulnerability:

I truly feel that both Immersion/Emersion and Autonomy (reference the Helm’s White Identity Model below) are where I am at right now.  I am at a place where I am starting to see the effects of my whiteness and the privilege I have as a white, heterosexual, cisgender male in America in the 21st century. 

I have read and studied things from Dr. Cornel Brown about racism, watch shows with black entertainers/comedians who directly combat racism today.  I have long held discussion and sometimes debates with other whites on Facebook about race, power, oppression, and struggle in order to expose to them the things in our culture and society that lead to the events that have happened in our country recently concerning race.  Under the autonomy section, the model below says, “The person is knowledgeable about racial, ethnic and cultural differences, values the diversity, and is no longer fearful, intimidated, or uncomfortable with the experiential reality of race. Development of a non-racist White identity becomes increasingly strong.”

One of my best friends is Ethiopian/Black American.  I have come to see how the system puts down people like those living in inner cities where drugs reign, poverty is sustained, and poor policies continue to keep the people down. 

I believe the American justice system to be one of the most glaring scenes of racism that we have today!  80% of those in jail are those of color who have mainly been locked up for committing non-violent, soft crimes.  Our justice system is warped, racist, and sick!  I am very grateful for politicians like Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders who are fighting this oppression and mess of a “justice” system we have!

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HELM’S WHITE RACIAL IDENTITY DEVELOPMENT MODEL (From Boise State website)

TWO PHASES: ABANDONMENT OF RACISM & DEFINING A NON-RACIST IDENTITY

1. Contact: People are:

>Oblivious to racism

>Lack an understanding of racism

>Have minimal experiences with Black people

>May profess to be color-blind

Societal influence in perpetuating stereotypes and the superior/inferior dichotomy
associated between Blacks and Whites are not noticed, but accepted unconsciously or consciously without critical thought or analysis. Racial and cultural differences are considered unimportant and these individuals seldom perceive themselves as “dominant” group members, or having biases and prejudices.

2. Disintegration: the person becomes conflicted over un-resolvable racial moral dilemmas frequently perceived as polar opposites:

>Believing one is nonracist, yet not wanting one’s son/daughter to marry a minority group member.

>Believing that “all men are created equal,” yet treating Blacks as second class citizens.

>Not acknowledging that oppression exists while witnessing it (e.g., the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, California, 1991).

The person becomes increasingly conscious of his/her Whiteness and may experience dissonance and conflict in choosing between own-group loyalty and humanism.

3. Reintegration: Because of the tremendous influence that societal ideology exerts, initial resolution of dissonance often moves in the direction of the dominant ideology associated with race and one’s own socio-racial group identity. This stage may be characterized as a regression, for the tendency is to idealize one’s socio-racial group and to be intolerant of other minority groups. There is a firmer and more conscious belief in White racial superiority, and racial/ethnic minorities are blamed for their own problems.

4. Pseudo-Independence: A person is likely to move into this phase due to a painful or insightful encounter or event, which jars the person from Reintegration status. The person begins to attempt an understanding of racial, cultural, and sexual orientation differences and may reach out to interact with minority group members. The choice of minority individuals, however, is based on how “similar” they are to him or her, and the primary mechanism used to understand racial issues is intellectual and conceptual. An attempt to understand has not reached the experiential and affective domains. In other words, understanding Euro-American White privilege, the sociopolitical aspects of race, and issues of bias, prejudice, and discrimination, tend to be more an intellectual exercise.

5. Immersion/Emersion: If the person is reinforced to continue a personal exploration of himself or herself as a racial being,questions become focused on what it means to be White. Helms states that the person searches for an understanding of the personal meaning of racism and the ways by which one benefits from White privilege. There is an increasing willingness to truly confront one’s own biases, to redefine Whiteness, and to become more activistic in directly combating racism and oppression. This stage is marked with increasing experiential and affective understanding that were lacking in the previous status.

6. Autonomy:

Increasing awareness of one’s own Whiteness, reduced feelings of guilt, acceptance of one’s own role in perpetuating racism, renewed determination to abandon White entitlement leads to an autonomy status. The person is knowledgeable about racial, ethnic and cultural differences, values the diversity, and is no longer fearful, intimidated, or uncomfortable with the experiential reality of race. Development of a non-racist White identity becomes increasingly strong.

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