How does racism hurt white people?

Question: How does racism hurt white people?

Answers:

  1. Racism sharply reduces white people’s chance opportunities in life to acquire new knowledge or new perspectives from intelligent or wise people.*
  2. Racism causes white people to overestimate their abilities and to underestimate their own weaknesses. It prevents them from knowing themselves and stunts their personal growth.
  3. Racism reduces white people’s chances of receiving help from others in times of desperation.
  4. Racism compromises white people’s physical safety.**
  5. Racism prevents white people from empathizing with and understanding human beings.

If a white person takes racism seriously only when it hurts “white people”, then the white person does not see the humanity or equality of people of colour. An anti-racist framework should not encourage or reinforce white in-group bias. Nonetheless, it is interesting that racism actually harms white people.

* resistance of Resist racism claims that racism reduces white people’s ability to think critically, but I claim that racism is a manifestation of critical thinking failure, not a cause of it.

** See also: The Cripocalypse (Trigger Warning) by Kateryna Fury at Texual Fury.


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31 Responses to “How does racism hurt white people?”

  1. Elton Says:

    My first instinct was to say it doesn’t. You raise some great, logical points, but I’m afraid logic doesn’t do much to convince people these days, white or otherwise, that racism (by the sociological, anti-racist definition) even exists, much less hurts them. At least in my experience.

    No, people think that racism was a relic of the past, limited to the KKK and not of much consequence these days. They think the real racists are people of color who seek sanctuary, suggest that white privilege exists, and/or bring up race at all.

  2. Matari Says:

    Perhaps “racism” should be further defined and expanded so that whites might know it goes far beyond “negative intentions” toward POC. Everyone knows what an “overt” evil, intentional racist act looks like. But what are some of the more invisible (usually to white people) unintended acts of racism that doesn’t come from an evil … ill intentioned place that are seen and felt as racist by people of color?

    This hurts white people (I’m speaking generally) because they can’t, don’t or won’t understand how their supposedly unintended racist actions causes harm to a POC. Then there’s their common refusal to: listen to and believe a POC .. discuss how the racism that they stubbornly refuse to accept as racist behavior – because ..well .. they simply didn’t intend the outcome to be negative toward the “other” person or group.

    Racism causes whites to feel GUILTY. It hurts them, and it’s not constructive. They find themselves walking on eggshells in the presence of others.. living in fear.. missing out .. unable to connect with fellow humans. The guilt doesn’t cause them to de-construct white-supremacy… or do any other positive thing. It only causes them to focus on themselves… and remain thoroughly entrenched in their delusions.

    Rambling /off!

  3. Lxy Says:

    White people do benefit from White supremacy and racism.

    Just as slaveowners benefited from the institution of chattel slavery, so too do their political descendants benefit from today’s more disguised form of White racial dominance–in terms of things like distribution of wealth, property, income; access to loans, housing and eduational opportunities; and of course treatment by the criminal injustice system.

    To pretend otherwise is at best politically naive.

    “Now back to my point that white anti-racism is an oxymoron. Whiteness is a social and political construct rooted in white supremacy. Drawing from the work of Frank Wilderson, I understand white supremacy as a structure and system of beliefs rooted in European and US imperialism in which certain racialized bodies (non-white) are selected for premature negation whether through cultural, physical, psychological genocide, containment or other forms of social death. White supremacy is at the heart of the US social system and civil society. In short, white supremacy is not just a series of practices or privilege, but a larger social structure and system of domination that overly-values and rewards those who are racialized as white. The rest of us are constructed as undeserving to be considered human, although there is significant variation within non-white populations of how our bodies are encoded, treated and (de)valued.”

    The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron
    http://www.nathanielturner.com/whiteantiracistsopenletter.htm

  4. Restructure! Says:

    I think there are two different things going on.

    Certainly, white people benefit from white supremacy and racism. In zero-sum situations like limited job openings and housing, the loss of people of colour is the gain of whites. In a society with systemic racism, white people benefit compared to people of colour.

    However, it seems like white people are worse off now compared to white people in a future, ideal society without racism. The “Answers” above from Resist racism are about the cost to racist whites compared to less racist whites, or as an aggregate, the cost to whites now compared to whites in a hopefully less racist future. They are not comparing the cost of racism to whites compared to the costs to people of colour. Obviously, people of colour have it worse.

  5. Shaikh Waheeduddin Says:

    very nice information I am impressed
    keep good work

  6. jwbe Says:

    yes I think there are costs also to white people to keep a system of white supremacy alive. But I am not eloquent enough to talk about them I think or I just have an odd perspective, I don’t know.

    >It prevents them from knowing themselves and stunts their personal growth.

    I agree with that.

    Another example would be, economically: How many white males ruined entire companies with their incompetence, being as the man in charge only because of skin-color and connections?
    The economic crisis, thanks to white males greed?
    How much potential gets lost because of a weird ‘race-solidarity’

  7. Lxy Says:

    However, it seems like white people are worse off now compared to white people in a future, ideal society without racism.

    This comparison to some mythical future “ideal” society is politically meaningless. This utopia world exists only as a mirage, an illusion and does not address actually existing conditions.

    It’s like saying that the condition of White slaveowners would be theoretically worse off compared to Whites in some “ideal future society without racism.”

    One might as well invoke “Heaven” as this idealized reference point.

    And one of the key points made by Kil Ja Kim in her article above is that so-called “anti-racist” politics reinforces White power and supremacy in practice–even as it proclaims otherwise.

    Among other things, anti-racism is based upon an “economy of gratitude” (where minorities are supposed to be thankful to anti-racist Whites) and it upholds White interests as legitimate or valuable in the first place (i.e. how does racism affect white people).

    But as Kim notes, “whiteness is a structure of domination. As such, there is nothing redeemable or reformed about whiteness.”

  8. Restructure! Says:

    Lxy,

    This comparison to some mythical future “ideal” society is politically meaningless. This utopia world exists only as a mirage, an illusion and does not address actually existing conditions.

    It’s like saying that the condition of White slaveowners would be theoretically worse off compared to Whites in some “ideal future society without racism.”

    One might as well invoke “Heaven” as this idealized reference point.

    True, true. I’ll say instead that a racist white person is worse off than a person with white privilege who is less racist. For example, in the situation linked in Answer #3, the racist white guy who sees a parking lot full of people as a cultural backdrop is certainly worse off than a less-racist person with white privilege who sees people of colour as people.

    And one of the key points made by Kil Ja Kim in her article above is that so-called “anti-racist” politics reinforces White power and supremacy in practice–even as it proclaims otherwise.

    Among other things, anti-racism is based upon an “economy of gratitude” (where minorities are supposed to be thankful to anti-racist Whites) and it upholds White interests as legitimate or valuable in the first place (i.e. how does racism affect white people).

    But as Kim notes, “whiteness is a structure of domination. As such, there is nothing redeemable or reformed about whiteness.”

    I thought the point was that “white anti-racism” is an oxymoron, not “anti-racism”. Anyway, I’m not sure how my post implies that it is acceptable for whiteness to be preserved as long as it is “anti-racist whiteness” (whatever that means; it’s an oxymoron).

    Also, when we talk about “white people”, it may be useful to bring up the intension vs. extension distinction. I want “white people” (intension) to be eliminated, but I don’t want “white people” (extension) to be eliminated. In other words, I want the concept to be eliminated from the cogs of society, but not the people the term refers to.

  9. Nquest Says:

    I think the argument I’ve heard libertarians advance (and, perhaps, some of your points reflect their market idealism) helps make your point about the way racism hurts Whites and its an idea I’ve thought about lately. Namely, that the U.S. long-term economic future/health is increasingly dependent on an increasingly racially diverse population making the kind of racism/discrimination that retards opportunities for so-called non-whites inevitably impacts Whites negatively (e.g. the social security system given the aging White U.S. population and youthful non-white U.S. population).

    Beyond that, racism continues to hurt lower class Whites because it provides a convenient and easy distraction from the true source of declining wages/opportunities of middle, working class and poor Whites. That is, the kind of racial scapegoating that goes on functions as an obstacle preventing Whites from effectively addressing, let alone voting, their class interest.

  10. jwbe Says:

    @Lxy
    let me ask a question please.

    You say
    >To pretend otherwise is at best politically naive.

    is it politically naive to say ‘how racism hurts whites’ or is it also politically naive to say ‘how this system hurts whites’?

  11. Lxy Says:

    @jwbe

    It is politically naive to believe that Whites don’t benefit from White supremacy and that they are simply misguided (or suffering from “false consciousness,” to use a Marxist term).

    The argument that people make is that if only Whites would wake up and see their “real class interests,” they would realize that racism is not in their self-interest.

    But White people are not dumb. They understand correctly that they do benefit from a system that gives power, wealth, material, and social advantage to those of European descent.

    Tim Wise actually talks about this a bit. He suggests that White Supremacy offers a concrete alternative system of privilege, power, and advancement instead of some utopian classless society. And this is why Whites will support it. He references DuBois’ idea of the “Wages of Whiteness” to explain this point.

    And my problem with this “how does racism hurt White people” rhetoric is:
    -It establishes the interests of the oppressor (European Americans) at the center of the debate once again.
    -It promotes a politics in which one must appease and pander to White self-interest. This kind of politics is at best limited if not self-defeating.

    It’s akin to asking “how does Colonialism hurt the Western colonizer,” and begging Western colonizer nations like the USA and its allies to end their subjugation of, say, Iraq and Afghanistan … because it’s really in their self-interest.

    Good luck with that.

    But in general, oppressors do not willingly give up power. It must be taken from them.

    Also, when we talk about “white people”, it may be useful to bring up the intension vs. extension distinction. I want “white people” (intension) to be eliminated, but I don’t want “white people” (extension) to be eliminated. In other words, I want the concept to be eliminated from the cogs of society, but not the people the term refers to.”

    One point that I would emphasize is that it’s not really the category of Whiteness that needs to be ended, it’s the power, dominance, and wealth that comes from being White that needs to be terminated.

    White people can identify as Whites. I have no problem with that.

    It’s the unearned and undeserved power and material advantage that is derived from Whiteness which is problematic.

    What I feel many Post-Racialists want to do is to formally dissolve the category of Whiteness and even race–only to implicitly continue a de facto system of (White) socio-economic dominance and power.

    This is an example of what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva would, I believe, call Colorblind Racism.

    And most likely, it will be the paradigm and template for 21st-century racial inequality and dominance.

    Racism without racists.

    White supremacy without (formal) Whiteness.

  12. Restructure! Says:

    Lxy,

    Most white people do not self-identify as “white”, but the category of Whiteness still exists because PoC are racially othered. PoC are described as being “ethnic”, “cultural”, and as having “racial features”, etc., which reflects the (implicit) category of whiteness (as default) in our society.

    Of course racial “color blindness” is not the way to dissolve the category of whiteness, as our current racist system (among white liberals) is based on racial “color blindness”. The first step is to explicitly point out that these racial categories exist. The dissolution of the category of whiteness would be achieved by radically restructuring our society politically.

    And my problem with this “how does racism hurt White people” rhetoric is:
    -It establishes the interests of the oppressor (European Americans) at the center of the debate once again.
    -It promotes a politics in which one must appease and pander to White self-interest. This kind of politics is at best limited if not self-defeating.

    I suppose the disclaimer I put in my post to prevent this exact (mis)interpretation is not enough?

  13. Lxy Says:

    Most white people do not self-identify as “white”, but the category of Whiteness still exists because PoC are racially othered. PoC are described as being “ethnic”, “cultural”, and as having “racial features”, etc., which reflects the (implicit) category of whiteness (as default) in our society.

    Yes, I agree that White people may not *explicitly* identify as White because European American culture and values are the universalized norm. That’s how White hegemony works. In other words, they don’t need to overtly identify as White in order to benefit from it.

    The first step is to explicitly point out that these racial categories exist. The dissolution of the category of whiteness would be achieved by radically restructuring our society politically.

    To me, the agenda should emphasize ending White power, wealth, and dominance–and not so much the catgory of Whiteness.

    Dissolving the formal category of Whiteness could–intentionally or otherwise–just reiterate the colorblind racist model that proclaims that “we are all just individuals” and “I don’t see race.”

    Keeping the category of Whiteness allows one to “name the oppressor”–and prevent this oppressor from hiding behind a false universal norm.

    This all goes back to a more fundamental political distinction:

    Post-Racial politics vs. Post-Racist politics.

    I personally don’t support post-racial politics in any form, as it’s a just a variant of colorblind racism.

    Post-racial politics says the “problem” is race and that the idea of race itself should be ended. In practice, however, this means implicitly upholding Whiteness as the default norm and standard–under the figleaf of colorblindness.

    Post-racist politics says the problem is *not* race, but rather how racial groups are structured in relations of dominance and subordination. The solution would be to end the institutions, culture, and systems that maintain these forms of hierarchy–while acknowleding racial differences.

    But for most Whites, ending this system of dominance is their worst nightmare come true.

    If you’re on top of the hill, the last thing you want is to be knocked off.

    I suppose the disclaimer I put in my post to prevent this exact (mis)interpretation is not enough?

    I was talking about the general politics behind caring “how does racism hurt White people” beyond your specific post.

  14. Restructure! Says:

    To me, the agenda should emphasize ending White power, wealth, and dominance–and not so much the catgory of Whiteness.

    Dissolving the formal category of Whiteness could–intentionally or otherwise–just reiterate the colorblind racist model that proclaims that “we are all just individuals” and “I don’t see race.”

    Keeping the category of Whiteness allows one to “name the oppressor”–and prevent this oppressor from hiding behind a false universal norm.

    Ending White power, wealth, and dominance would lead to the dissolution of the category of whiteness. A white person cannot dissolve the category of whiteness by simply saying “I’m not white, I’m human,” etc., since she would still have white privilege. Whiteness isn’t just something that is inside people’s heads, and the category of whiteness is not just something that is inside people’s heads. Whiteness is white privilege, and destroying whiteness is destroying white privilege, and destroying white privilege is destroying whiteness.

    I never said to dissolve the formal category of whiteness. This would be pretty ridiculous, considering that I continually use the word “white” in posts, tags, and categories.

  15. Lxy Says:

    I’m not going to quibble over semantics with you as I think this debate is devolving into arguing for the sake of arguing, or to see who can “win”–and not about the issue per se, anymore.

    But, the important point is that it’s the *dominance* that comes with White identity that should be ended, more so than the identity itself.

    In a post-racist system, someone could identify as White but not derive power or privilege from it.

    In a post-racial system, however, the idea of White identity could be formally dissolved, but that would not necessarily mean the end of a de facto form of White dominance.

    This is what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva talks about and why his work is so compelling–because it’s most likely the future, if not the present.

  16. Restructure! Says:

    Yes, we’re probably arguing over semantics, but I felt the need to respond, because I find that the assumption that I am advocating post-racialism or “color blindness” offensive.

  17. jwbe Says:

    @Lxy

    >It is politically naive to believe that Whites don’t benefit from White supremacy and that they are simply misguided (or suffering from “false consciousness,” to use a Marxist term).

    Yes, I think it is also naive to believe that an oppressive group would change out of humanitarian reasons, this appeals to a form of idealized humanity that probably doesn’t even exist.

    >The argument that people make is that if only Whites would wake up and see their “real class interests,” they would realize that racism is not in their self-interest.

    and probably the reverse is true. For example in America the high unemployment rate of Black people, I think twice as high as white’s, was never considered an economic crisis, the economic crises ‘happens now’ where also whites are more affected, and the Western world, and then there are political reactions trying to stop the worst for the industrialized world, but not changing the system which created the problem in the first place. And in an economic climate like this white privilege/white supremacy is an advantage for whites.
    It is now a problem governments ‘have to solve’ and have to find solutions and no ‘if you just work hard enough’

    and the five points raised in the OP which are more on an emotional or psychological level and while I agree that there are costs and I thought long about this, I also think that most whites find many ways to compensate for these costs, means most don’t realize it. And what you don’t know you won’t miss and therefore it doesn’t hurt.

    Regarding white anti-racism, there is an important post
    anti racism…what went wrong?
    http://guerrillamamamedicine.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/anti-racism-what-went-wrong/

  18. Nquest Says:

    “… the five points raised in the OP which are more on an emotional or psychological level and while I agree that there are costs and I thought long about this, I also think that most whites find many ways to compensate for these costs… “

    I think a rational decision is made and I believe we’ve all seen the clues to the thought process that occurs among a number of non-anti-racist Whites. When reflecting on the way the majority of Whites were in the past, a lot of Whites today attribute the racist attitudes and views to the social norms of the times — meaning the established norms, from generation to generation, don’t/won’t be challenged. Instead, they are accepted especially since Whites from all backgrounds find themselves in a better/superior social condition than their class counterparts among POC. So, there’s a ready trade-off.

    Things may not be ideal for middle/working class or poor Whites but their better-off than the POC in their socio-economic group.

    Also, on the question of middle/working class and poor Whites and their class interest… Well, first of all, there’s no reason to think that’s not part of the trade-off bargain mentioned above. If middle/working class and poor Whites openly recognize their “class interests” and set about pursuing them then they will necessarily have to take on the society’s power structure which is something most people feel they can’t do (and succeed) and others are resigned not to either because of the kind of effort and sacrifice involved and/or the potential threat to their current status.

    I mean, it’s not like poor Whites, etc. have not witnessed what has happened to POC when they/we challenge the power structure… So, IMO, a very simple and rational decision is made to forgo said “class interest” to the extent that pursuing those interests are perceived to potentially jeopardize that status that Whiteness is.

  19. jwbe Says:

    >I think a rational decision is made and I believe we’ve all seen the clues to the thought process that occurs among a number of non-anti-racist Whites. When reflecting on the way the majority of Whites were in the past, a lot of Whites today attribute the racist attitudes and views to the social norms of the times — meaning the established norms, from generation to generation, don’t/won’t be challenged.

    I think that also this that all whites today are more or less racist because of the system is some sort of ko-declaration. It is some sort of excuse, because if all whites are racist ones own racism is not ‘such bad’ but just a product of society where somebody personally has not much influence in how s/he lets influence ones personality from outside. And if it is considered as somehow impossible to challenge ones own racist thoughts/attitude and lead a responsible life, isn’t this a contradiction to white anti-racism?
    The question those never raise, who claim that all whites are racist, why then should they be taken seriously?
    And also, when it is said that whites listen more to other white people and then those whites use an approach which is more understanding for ‘confused whites’ and also protecting them – listen white people to them because of this?

    >Also, on the question of middle/working class and poor Whites and their class interest…

    Trying to appeal to poor/working class white peoples interest is also contrary to what history tells I think, ‘white race interest’ has always been stronger.

  20. Nquest Says:

    One of the points I tried to raise is simply that a lot of Whites feel powerless to change their own condition for their own interests/benefit, let alone for what is perceived to be competing interests of others. So the zero sum gain idea that the social progress of POC comes at the expense of middle/working class and poor Whites becomes something they feel they have power over.

    It becomes easy to scapegoat POC, gays, etc. especially when there is a significant portion of the power elites who will promote or support those anti-Black, anti-gay, anti-Muslim/”foreigner” sentiments and, from that zero sum perspective, the scapegoating helps to secure a better relative social/economic condition for middle/working class and poor Whites when compared to their counterparts among POC.

    But even Whites who have an issue with society’s racism/discrimination still feel powerless (just like POC do) which, obviously, aids the status quo.

  21. jwbe Says:

    true

  22. kope187 Says:

    I think that racism hurts whites less because, generally speaking whites do not make a big deal about it. I do not think that I have ever heard a white man pull the race card, not to say that it has never happened. Bottom line is that white people are not hung up on being white like many blacks or Latinos are. I mean seriously what are you going to say to a white guy to cut him down?

  23. Mephisto Says:

    White people aren’t hung up on race, because don’t HAVE to be Kope187, because they are recipients of benefits from an unfair system that is tailored SOLELY for them. They don’t make a big deal about it, because historically they aren’t hampered by it, like other groups have been. That’s the whole purpose of this topic!

  24. nemo235 Says:

    Because some of us white people are victims of racism too.
    racism is wrong both ways, but people seem to forget that it goes both ways, that is, all ways. I am not defending white racists, and am not an advocate of any form of racism.

  25. toiletseatyoga Says:

    What about constructive racism? My university has an international education department that makes me gag with their ethnocentric desires, grants, classes, proposals to “educate” any low SESs. As if the dominant class knows better ? More discussion should happen, racial slurs, words, stereotypes should BE USED OFTEN, be laid out on the table, and gutted, so we can all see what’s inside them. Nothing. Sonya Nieto says that differences naturally bring about conflict, and in a truly multicultural society we need to relish these conflicts, expose them, talk about them for what they are, reveal their genesis: irrational FEAR.

  26. daboozies Says:

    I’m appalled at how ignorant some of you people on here are. Do you honestly believe that in at least eighty percent of America today white people are favored over, to use your own ridiculously racist term, people of color? Please.

    Eighty percent of this country looks at more than your skin color. I’ve never seen a white person who was not more qualified for a job be taken over a “person of color” (HA, that term is so idiotic).

    The scale is leveling out, and it’s time for all of you to open your eyes and see that you are getting rights. It hasn’t been a slow process and there’s still that twenty percent still stuck in the 1930s, but come on. Rome wasn’t built in a day, people.

    You need to grow up. Yes, there are INSTANCES in which your statements do categorize correctly, but these are minor instances. You’re making it out to be that every second there are more and more “people of color” being discriminated against, that the world’s going under because the white devil is sucking the life from the minorities.

    Give me a break.

  27. daboozies Says:

    I’m sorry, my comment should say it HAS been a slow process.

  28. mustbeworkedoutbyall Says:

    @ daboozies
    “I’ve never seen a white person who was not more qualified for a job be taken over a “person of color”.

    The way you’ve phrased your statement tells me you should be posting on other sites that are more in line with your beliefs – a number of them comes to mind.

    “The scale is leveling out, and it’s time for all of you to open your eyes and see that you are getting rights.”

    “People of Colour” always had rights:
    Remember – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain “unalienable” Rights…”

    Not sure if you’re able to comprehend how patronizing your statement is that people of colour are “getting rights.” “People of Colour” did not cede those rights to anyone; they were taken away by a system, which in the past were quite demonstrable – trees that bore black human beings, unleashing of dog, high pressure jets from fire hoses, intimidation – not to mention statutes that were enacted stripping or their human dignity. Although not as pervasive as in the not too distant past, except for the occasional nooses hanging here and there – the system is still in place. However, you are so enmeshed in it (the system) that its reality escapes you.

    By and large, the majority of the posters on the forum are correct in their assessments, but there are still many out there, like you, who feel “people of colour” are delusional and are incapable any meaningful analysis on white supremacy.

    Some years ago, during late days of South Africa apartheid era, the Prime Minister of the day boldly declared that apartheid had to be “reformed,” and if my memory serves me correctly, Bishop Desmond Tutu responded, and rightly so, that apartheid cannot be reformed, it had to be dismantled.

    “Rome wasn’t built in a day, people,” What is so ironic about that statement is: individuals of your ilk will state, without hesitation, that “people of colour” should “get over it” that these things happened a long time ago.

    Oh! One more thing – It’s quite magnanimous of you and yours to incrementally dole out “people of colour” rights to them.

  29. mustbeworkedoutbyall Says:

    The following should read:

    “People of Colour” did not cede those rights to anyone; they were taken away by a system, which in the past was quite demonstrable – trees that bore black human beings, unleashing of dog, high pressure jets from fire hoses, intimidation – not to mention statutes that were enacted stripping or them of all human dignity.

    Oh! One more thing – It’s quite magnanimous of you and yours to incrementally dole out rights to “people of colour.”

  30. maaark Says:

    If you were to rephrase your statement to “How does racism harm the racist?” then I would be more receptive to your discussion. But if you selectively accuse whites as the only perpetrators of this evil then you are alienating us from the process of change.

    I agree, racism also harms the racist in all the ways you said.

  31. lol Says:

    Why do I think that the person who wrote this is racist?


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