A Race is a Nice Thing to Have
Janet Helms

Chapter 1:
  • Color blind society—pretend we do not notice- most directly traceable to Civil Rights movement and reverse-discrimination movement of the 80’s
  • Civil Rights—this form of color blindness—a future status or goal—a way of ending discrimination based on race
  • Reverse-Discrimination- view as a solution to real or imagined discrimination against White males due to Affirmative Action programs. If everyone ignores race, everyone will have the same access to political and economic power they deserve

  • King did not advocate color blindness—just refused to believe some are superior: “The things people ignore or pretend not to exist are usually scary, unpleasant, or distasteful. Our skin colors do not belong in that category.” P. 3

Chapter 2:
  • White people raised to be confused about their own color… “polite white people do not mention people’s color in public”. Bombarded with ambiguous messages about color from the time they are young. They begin to learn that color is a handicap. One notices physical disabilities but one does not let the impaired person know.

  • Associations of white with “pure”, “clean”, “angelic” / Dark: “bad”, “evil”

  • White is a deficit in school—absence of color—begin to define their whiteness by what they are not. “If society ever evolves to a point where skin colors are not differentially evaluated, then the person who defines himself or herself primarily on the basis of color will have lost a sense of self as well as self worth.” P. 8

Chapter 3:
  • White people have difficulty admitting they are White. When asked about race, they will respond with nationality.

  • White privilege is the foundation of racism.
  • White culture: Social Dimensions:
-Rugged individualism
-Nuclear Family- alternative structures (eg. Single parent) are considered deviant
-Rationalism- mind, body, emotion are separate entities—people who express emotions in “rational” situations (political speeches) are devalued
-Time- perceived as a quantity—save time, spend time…
-European Aesthetic—ideals of beauty
-Action Orientation- everyone is responsible for what happens to him or her. If you are homeless, you want to be
-Universalism- Normative and best characteristics are defined by European culture
-Competition- society’s resources belong to the best
-History- most important American hx is white

Chapter 4:
  • Individual, Cultural, and Institutional racism
  • Each can exist overtly or covertly
  • Individual:
-belief in superiority of Whites
-Denial of racism
-Belief that lack of success of non-whites is due to malaise or genetic inferiority
  • Cultural:
-Language superiority
-Law, politics, from White perspective
-Education, philosophy, science
-Contributions of Whites are best
  • Institutional:
-Law enforcement policies more stringent for people of color
-Unemployment & underemployment for people of color
-Inadequate housing—mortgage loan discrimination, segregation of housing by race
“In brief, the major cost to white people is that the perpetuation of racism makes it virtually impossible to function & compete in a multicultural society except through domination, suppression, & massive denial of reality” p. 20

  • Moral self vs. Socialized White self
  • Denial as a fragile coping strategy

1) Contact: innocence and ignorance about race
-assumes others are “raceless” too
-naïve curiosity
Leave stage- understanding of the consequences to a white person of offending other whites
-denial—self-protective strategy
2) Disintegration- when denial no longer works
-theme of confusion
-recognition of white privilege/negative consequences of potential loss
-moral dilemma—to be valued by other whites, must subscribe to immoral social practices
-resolves by disturbing reality—learns to blame the victim
3) Reintegration –Consciously white, considers whites to be superior to all other racial groups
-primary self-protective strategy is displacement or scapegoating—resolving inner conflict by blaming people of color
-moving from this stage probably requires a catastrophic event or series of personal encounters that the person can no longer ignore
Phase II
1) Pseudo-Independence- no longer invested in belief that white is superior but doesn’t have new belief system to replace the old one
-to replace old beliefs, person begins to adopt white liberalist views—assumed people of color can be helped to become the equal of whites through activities like affirmative action
-self-protective strategies are intellectualization and denial
-many people of color do not want to be white and assimilate. As people recognize this, they enter the next stage.
2) Immersion/Emersion—effort to understand the unsanitized version of white history
-active exploration of racism
-self-protective strategy of sensitization
-seeks within race and cross-racial experiences
3) Autonomy- develop humanitarian attitude toward people regardless of race
-confrontation & inclusion are the primary self-protective strategies

Chapter 6
  • Characteristics--Contact
-doesn’t consciously think of self as white
-has avoided personal involvement with members of other racial groups
-Naivete in interactions
-claims to be “color blind”
-assumes other groups want to be assimilated into white culture ie., role of the “tour guide”
-minimal knowledge of other racial groups

Chapter 7
  • Characteristics-Disintegration
-feelings of guilt, confusion
-no socially approved guidelines for respolving
-recognition of white privilege
-ethical dilemmas—beliefs vs. reality

Chapter 8
  • Characteristics—Reintegration
-hostility directed toward people of color
-negative stereotypes
-denial of responsibility
-fear of people of color
-denial of existence of racism
-whites are the “gold standard”
-belief whites are no more racist than other groups
“Reintegration is a stable and consistent stage because cultural and institutional racism are so firmly established in American society.”

Chapter 9
  • Characteristics—Pseudo Independent
-expends effort trying to figure out “environmental” explanations for why people of color have not achieved at the same level
-feels responsibility for helping people of color become more similar to whites
-recognizes whites are responsible for racism but this is the sin of only “deviant” whites
-depends on people of color to reveal whether h/she is a racist
-“pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps”
-has friends who are people of color; they are perceived to be similar to one’s white friends or in “need of some sort of help that the white person feels capable of providing” p. 60
-intellectualized interest in racial issues (thinking vs. feeling)
-“most whites cannot articulate how they personally have benefitted from racism” p. 61
  • Strategies:
-Talking Past- things are better than they were
-Role Model Selection—chooses a public figure to illustrate person’s thinking error
-Friendly color-blindness—Although person believes h/herself to be liberal and aware, that awareness does not extend to self
-The real victim
-Ain’t it a Shame—white person recognizes that racially discriminatory or derogatory behavior is occurring but does nothing to change the situation
-Ancestor Worship—identifying a white ethnic group that experienced discrimination
-I’m a Racist—person admits to racism for h/herself as well as all other whites—diffuses responsibility “no-choice “ attitude

Chapter 10
  • Characteristics—Immersion-emersion
-stage in which one begins to actively redefine what it means to be white
-primary difference from pseudo-independence is pseudo-independence still still localizes race and racial tensions in people of color whereas Immersion-Emersion recognizes contributions of whites in such matters
-testifying and attempting to convert other whites
-fear reactions from others

Chapter 11
  • Characteristics—Autonomy
-what makes this stage unique is person now has realistic view of whiteness which can be nurtured, identified, internalized—taken out and examined when it appears not to be working as the individual would like
-truly values diversity—sees as an asset
-actively seeks increase in diversity in own life