White Anti-Racists who hope to be White Saviours believe in White Supremacy.

White people like the white saviour narrative, because they can identify with the white protagonist, who is absolved from white guilt and becomes a white hero for people of colour to worship. When the white protagonist joins the group of people of colour, white people imagine that it is possible for a white person to purge his whiteness, and hence, to free himself from white guilt and responsibility. Paradoxically, not only does the white protagonist rid himself of white guilt, but he also becomes the hero, the saviour, the superior group member because he is white.

Moreover, in the white saviour narrative, all the people of colour collectively bow down or even prostrate before the white protagonist to symbolize the white person’s superiority over all people of colour (such as in Avatar, after Jake Sully tames the Toruk), and to indicate the submission of people of colour to white leadership. The white protagonist is smarter, better, faster, or stronger than people of colour because of his whiteness. The story’s internal logic requires a reason for the white protagonist’s unique superiority, so it is usually his white culture that makes him superior. Superior white culture takes the form of symbolically white technology (telescopes, rifles, Western marksmanship in Dances With Wolves), white skills (American military training in The Last Samurai), or white knowledge (scientific reasoning from the white protagonist in Avatar, who happened to be characterized as being below-average in both science and reasoning).

In other words, the white saviour narrative is white supremacist. Although this narrative demonizes overtly malevolent actions associated with white identity and which induce white guilt (e.g., colonialism), it still assumes that white people are superior as long as they act benevolently.

White Anti-Racists’ Fantasy

White anti-racists are inundated with white saviour narratives in white media beyond those three films, so most expect that their anti-racist journey will follow the white saviour narrative. In the white anti-racist saviour narrative, the white anti-racist passes an Anti-Racism Loyalty Test, and after this test, she sheds her whiteness as an individual, her white guilt and responsibility. After this event, no person of colour can ever accuse her of being racist or white.

Moreover, in the white anti-racist saviour narrative, the white anti-racist as an individual has the ability to solve the problem of racism, and people of colour failed to solve racism because we were not as creative or educated, or we are deficient in some way. The white anti-racist offers unique insights into race or racism that people of colour have never considered, and receives applause and gratitude from people of colour.

Basically, most white anti-racists expect that since anti-racism is a Good ThingTM, doing it should feel good and boost their self-esteem.

White Anti-Racists’ Reality

What usually happens is that a person of colour calls out the white anti-racist’s racism or white privilege after she has passed her mentally-constructed Anti-Racism Loyalty Test, and the white anti-racist insists that the person of colour must be mistaken. Even when she sees her error, she lashes out at people of colour, because instead of receiving gratitude for what she did right, she receives criticism for what she did wrong. Additionally, the white anti-racist feels like she is being silenced by people of colour, because she is not allowed to lead the movement or make decisions about which issues are most important or which strategies are the most effective. People of colour tell her that she does not understand basic points about racism, which she interprets as a personal attack on her intelligence, akin to being called “an idiot who wasn’t able to finish high school”, for example.*

In essence, the white anti-racist becomes frustrated and upset, because her expectation that she will become the white saviour does not materialize. Underlying this expectation is the unconscious belief of white supremacy, which is why white people interested in anti-racism need to understand Kil Ja Kim/Tamara Nopper’s White Anti Racist Open Letter:

Rather, white people need to be willing to have their very social position, their very relationship of domination, their very authority, their very being…let go, perhaps even destroyed.

Otherwise, white people are working to maintain white supremacy even within anti-racist communities and communities of colour.


* When Nquest suggested that a white anti-racist did not grasp a basic point argued by black intellectuals to whom the white anti-racist was exposed, the white anti-racist responded with, “Right, I must be an idiot who wasn’t able to finish high school, so hard is it for “basic points” to penetrate my thick skull.” This implies that a high school education is sufficient for a white person to understand basic points made by black intellectuals on what racial progress looks like, which is racist.


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19 Responses to “White Anti-Racists who hope to be White Saviours believe in White Supremacy.”

  1. Restructure! Says:

    David Brooks Sees Racism In Avatar; Body Presumed Snatched (RaceWire)

  2. Lxy Says:

    This is a provocative post.

    Along with the “White Professional Anti-Racist” post above, it brings up something that has troubled me but not been given nearly enough attention: the agenda of White people who claim to be “anti-racist.”

    To me, “anti-racism” itself is becoming just another industry or political space for Whites to colonize.

    Just as Whites already dominate most aspects of society (political, economic, social, cultural) now they want to move in and colonize the very *resistance* to their power.

    And all their progressive “anti-racist” rhetoric is at one level more about establishing their political “street cred” or moral legitimacy to do so.

    If it continues, this trend will only uphold and perpetuate White domination–even as it professes the opposite.

    Ultimately, this suggests the importance of minorities developing independent and autonomous political spaces that cannot be taken over by Whites.

  3. jwbe Says:

    Lxy, I agree and it seems that for too many whites it is just about ‘reputation’ or being an ‘expert’ and/or making money and because they have the better access to their white audience and also better access to resources (money) nothing will change.
    And it’s probably true – in a system of white supremacy you can never trust anybody – whiteness infiltrates all

  4. Restructure! Says:

    There was a funny incident (funny as in ironic and proving the point of the video) in the comments of the original post by Nezua, starting from Bryan J.’s first comment. He started off with enjoying Nezua’s video and laughing at other “white professional anti-racists”. When Nezua refused to be the POC ambassador who exonerates him, he eventually ended up calling Nezua a “dictator”, “no better than the far-right in the immigration debate”, and a “scourge” on people he supports.

    It makes me think white people’s agenda when they claim to be “anti-racist” is to receive immunity from being called racist.

  5. on naming: paddington and our inner neocolonialist « goldfish in a blender Says:

    […] speaking of critical thinkers, see Avatar through a lens other than 3D glasses by Restructure, my favorite Canadian blog. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Trouble with bearsAlter Ego DayYour Inner […]

  6. macon d Says:

    Restructure footnoted,

    When Nquest suggested that a white anti-racist did not grasp the ideas of black intellectuals to whom the white anti-racist was exposed, the white anti-racist responded with, “Right, I must be an idiot who wasn’t able to finish high school, so hard is it for “basic points” to penetrate my thick skull.” This implies that a high school education is sufficient to understand black intellectuals, which is racist.

    Since this footnote is about “me” —

    I think that as in earlier instances, you’ve stripped this quotation of “me” of its actual meaning by decontextualizing it.

    I’m grateful when I learn that I’ve done something racist and/or inaccurate (and my thanks again to you for the times that you’ve done that at my blog), and yes, if I had written or implied that “a high school education is sufficient to understand black intellectuals,” that would have been racist. But it’s not what I wrote, nor is it what my words implied (nor is it what I believe, having scratched my head many times over the difficult work of black intellectuals).

    To restore a bit of the context that you left out —

    What Nquest wrote in that comment thread, and what I was responding to, was this:

    It’s disappointing that the Black intellectuals you’ve been exposed to haven’t penetrated your consciousness on that very basic point.

    To which I responded,

    Right, I must be an idiot who wasn’t able to finish high school, so hard is it for “basic points” to penetrate my thick skull. Believe it or not, that very basic point has penetrated my consciousness . . .

    IOW, my response was to what I read as Nquest’s implication that I couldn’t grasp even “very basic” points (which took place in the broader context elsewhere of his repeated use of such phrases as “dumbazz,” etc.), and it was not a claim, nor even an implication, that the work of black intellectuals is itself “very basic.”

    And so, as I see it, my response there to Nquest does not imply, as you claim it does, that “a high school education is sufficient to understand black intellectuals.” It’s not even about the general complexity of the work of black intellectuals.

    Do you see what I’m getting at? What do you think?

    All of that said, I do take and appreciate a broader point in your post itself about white respondents to POC explainers of racial matters. I did feel personally attacked when told by Nquest that I didn’t understand even a “very basic point” yet. Whiteness certainly does instill a certain pride or something of that sort in white people (which is one of the “white anti-racist” characteristics that I think Nezua’s video also captures well); I’m still battling to keep that part of my white racial training at bay. I hope that I’m better at doing so than I was at the time of that comment thread in question, a year and a half ago. I do think I would respond differently now. But I still don’t like it when my written words are misquoted; I hope that dislike, or feeling, is coming from a different place.

  7. jwbe Says:

    yes, I still think that you don’t get the basics and that your unmaking Macon won’t work that way, most of all as long as you believe that there is some “white racial training” which can be separated from your personality – this absorbed “white training” led to the person you are, your very reactions to certain instances show this, and as long as you are unwilling to recognize this you won’t grow. And as long as you act the way you do, here as well as on your blog you don’t indicate that you want to grow, you struggle painfully visible that you want to remain in power and want to remain the privileged person you are.
    Macon D, the actor and denialist

  8. Restructure! Says:

    Macon D,

    To restore a bit of the context that you left out —

    What Nquest wrote in that comment thread, and what I was responding to, was this:

    It’s disappointing that the Black intellectuals you’ve been exposed to haven’t penetrated your consciousness on that very basic point.

    To which I responded,

    Right, I must be an idiot who wasn’t able to finish high school, so hard is it for “basic points” to penetrate my thick skull. Believe it or not, that very basic point has penetrated my consciousness . . .

    IOW, my response was to what I read as Nquest’s implication that I couldn’t grasp even “very basic” points (which took place in the broader context elsewhere of his repeated use of such phrases as “dumbazz,” etc.), and it was not a claim, nor even an implication, that the work of black intellectuals is itself “very basic.”

    And so, as I see it, my response there to Nquest does not imply, as you claim it does, that “a high school education is sufficient to understand black intellectuals.” It’s not even about the general complexity of the work of black intellectuals.

    Do you see what I’m getting at? What do you think?

    I think that you were the one who brought up measurements of intelligence, which completely derailed what Nquest was saying and trying drive into your head:

    What someone’s intelligence-as-grade level has to do with them having a conscious sensitivity or awareness of people’s racial sensitivities which, ironically, had everything to do with viewing African Americans as intelligent human beings as opposed to people “appreciated” for their music, style and cool… Well, obviously, I don’t know and didn’t know then.

    So why do you think that basic points about the complex topic of racism should be easily graspable by anyone (white) with a high school education, or anyone (white) who is not an idiot? Racism 101 is a list of basic points about race, yet understanding Racism 101 has little to do with one’s level of formal education.

  9. macon d Says:

    “Racism 101”?

    What happened to “black intellectuals”?

    It seems to me like you’re shifting from apples to oranges, and away from what you wrote in your footnote.

    I asked you, the author of this post, about what you wrote in your footnote about what I wrote in a comment; your footnote still says (erroneously, I think) that what I wrote to Nquest

    implies that a high school education is sufficient to understand black intellectuals, which is racist.

    You wrote there about “black intellectuals,” not Racism 101/”basic points” about racism.

    If you interpret what I wrote to Nquest as an irrelevant and derailing implication that understanding “basic points”/Racism 101 has something to do with education and/or intelligence, I think that’s a different interpretation of my exchange with Nquest from the interpretation presented in your footnote. I’m willing to talk about that different interpretation — regarding Racism 101, intelligence, and so on — if you like (i.e., answer your questions), but I’d rather wait until you address what I’ve asked you about, that is, what you wrote in your footnote about what I wrote in a comment.

  10. Restructure! Says:

    macon d,

    I was using “Racism 101” as an analogy, but I realize now that it made it more difficult for you to understand, instead of easier. Please re-read it again, ignoring any mention I made of “Racism 101”.

    So my question should be: “So why do you think that basic points by black intellectuals about the complex topic of racism should be easily graspable by anyone (white) with a high school education, or anyone (white) who is not an idiot?”

    (I’m not sure how that makes it better for you, since the idea that HS education is sufficient for understanding basic points by black intellectuals is worse than the idea that HS education is sufficient for understanding basic points about Racism 101)

  11. macon d Says:

    Thanks for the response, and I appreciate your patience. (I’m feeling wary of enacting a bit of thread hijacking and white center-staging here on your blog — if you’d rather discuss this relatively minor matter of a footnote over email, feel free.)

    So my question should be: “So why do you think that basic points by black intellectuals about the complex topic of racism should be easily graspable by anyone (white) with a high school education, or anyone (white) who is not an idiot?”

    You’re still not addressing your footnote, which says,

    This implies that a high school education is sufficient to understand black intellectuals, which is racist.”

    It doesn’t say “basic points by black intellectuals.”

    I’m addressing your footnote because I read it (as I think most readers would) as stating that my comment to Nquest implies that I believe that the work of black intellectuals overall is simplistic — so easy to understand that it requires little more than a high school education to do so. Which, again, strikes me as an erroneous interpretation of what I wrote. I wrote about Nquest’s claim that I hadn’t understood a “basic point,” and I did not write in the comment that you quoted an assessment of the difficulty of “black intellectuals” in general.

  12. Restructure! Says:

    macon d,

    All right, I think the problem is that basic points about a complex topic are not “basic” as in “anyone can understand it”, since people may not understand basic points because they do not have the mental framework to understand them. I think white people tend to assume that since white people are associated with rationality, then they must have the mental framework to understand anything, that they are more mentally equipped to understand things than people of colour, and that anything that people of colour understand must be understandable to white people. While white people generally accept the idea that a white person with only a high school education can easily grasp a basic point made by a black intellectual, they are less likely to agree that a black person with only a high school education can easily grasp a basic point made by Bertrand Russell.

    This is racist and white supremacist.

    I’ve updated the footnote. Let me know if it makes sense to you.

  13. macon d Says:

    Okay, thanks for revising the footnote. It wasn’t that the footnote didn’t make sense to me before; it was that it misinterpreted something I’d written. Now it’s more about basic points made by black intellectuals than about black intellectuals in general. Now I think the footnote might better serve as instructive for readers.

    Thanks also for the explanation, though I’ve already come to know and understand what you’re saying (as I said, it was the erroneous interpretation that I’d denigrated the complexity of work by black intellectuals in general that I objected to). As a white person who’s continually working to be more self-aware in racial terms, I do think that the points you’re making in your last comment about common white thinking are accurate and insightful. Also, I recognize myself, and much more so an earlier me, in some of it, especially these parts:

    white people tend to assume that . . . they must have the mental framework to understand anything . . . that anything that people of colour understand must be understandable to white people.

    Ain’t it the sad, awful truth.

    Thanks again for your time.

  14. Restructure! Says:

    macon d,

    For the White Apologetics post on SWPD, I started to Gimp an image of a couple of your past white apologies along with marking the bingo card, but then I didn’t have enough interest to finish it. I believe that if someone did not apologize for or retract a statement that they made a year or two ago (or even decades ago), then it is reasonable to assume that they still hold that view.

    Anyway, as I dislike commenting on your blog because there’s a reasonable chance that my comment will be sent to trash, these were the comments that I was going to use to play White Apologetics Bingo:

    Restructure, I didn’t mean for that response to 911 to be dismissive, and 911, if you’re still reading, I apologize for wording my response in such a way that it could be interpreted as a dismissal. My point there was just to underline what I deal with more fully in this post–that nothing in the first post says anything at all about non-white people.

    I get 3-4, spaces, not including the free space. Can you guess which ones?

    Okanagan, I saw your other comment here, and if you are a Native American/Indian/indigenous person, my apologies if the post offended you, and I’m sorry to hear that you sense a “prideful” presence in me at my blog.

    This one has 2-3 (two overlap). Can you guess which ones?

  15. macon d Says:

    Yes, those are littered with “White Apologetics,” and yes, I hereby “retract” them. I’m still learning how to better apologize, and I hope I don’t apologize like that anymore.

    My guesses:

    1: I didn’t mean it that way; I didn’t express myself well; and . . . My interpretation of the situation is correct?

    2. I’m sorry you were offended; I’m sorry you took it that way.

    There’s also a bonus match there for something I said upthread — “I am really, really, really, not trying to hijack this thread.”

  16. Restructure! Says:

    Yes, those were the ones. I’m surprised that you can actually see them now. However, I think you should actually apologize to those people you were fake-apologizing to… or accept that you haven’t apologized yet.

    I don’t think of you as hijacking this thread, though.

  17. Kaeruchan Says:

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!! My sister and I were talking about this and this makes all the points I knew were coming but didn’t see because I refused to pay my money to see this drivel. Thank you again!

  18. links for 2010-01-29 « Embololalia Says:

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