Discussing “white identity” out of context perpetuates racism.

Although whiteness (contingent social construct) is invisible to the vast majority of white people (a contingent category of people), simply making whiteness explicit and visible is not necessarily antiracist. Making whiteness (contingent social construct) explicit does not in itself challenge the construct, but may instead strengthen it. Particularly, portraying the contingent social construct of whiteness as a necessary social construct reinforces racism.

White identity is defined by othering of people of colour.

The vast majority of white people (or persons with white privilege) are not consciously aware of the contingent social construct of whiteness, but they are very much aware of it subconsciously or implicitly. White people are implicitly aware of this contingent social construct, because it is constructed by calibrating whiteness as normal and othering people of colour. People of colour are considered “ethnic” and their culture is considered “cultural”, while “white people” and “white culture” are considered (implicitly) the negation of what people of colour supposedly represent. To even denote a people or cultural practise as “ethnic” suggests that there are people and cultural practises that are “not ethnic”, which is why the distinction is created in the first place.

In other words, the (implicit or explicit) social construct of whiteness works together with denoting people of colour as the Other, i.e., not of the national heritage, culture, or identity of “white”-majority nations. “White identity” is mainly a negative definition. When a person of white privilege addresses another person of white privilege, “white” is defined implicitly as not “blacks”, “Asians”, “minorities”, or “those people”. When a person of white privilege addresses a person of colour, “white” is defined implicitly as not “you people.”

Portraying whiteness (contingent social construct) as whiteness (necessary social construct) is racist.

Perceiving people of colour as having a “race” is the standard white narrative. Perceiving white people as having a “race” is more common with people of colour, but this perception is often based the recognition that people with white privilege have extra advantages. (For example, majoring in philosophy is sometimes considered very “white”, but this is based on the recognition that white people on average have a higher socio-economic status relative to people of colour within white-majority countries. When people say that majoring in philosophy is very “white”, it is not a statement about genetic differences in mental capabilities between “whites” and “non-whites”.) Hence, when people of colour are pointing out whiteness, they are not necessarily claiming that whiteness is something biological or that it is necessary to the fabric of reality.

Although making whiteness (contingent social construct) explicit may be subversive in that it usually makes people with white privilege uncomfortable, discussing “white identity” out of the context of white privilege and racism presents whiteness as a necessary (or natural) social construct. “White identity” is defined by othering people of colour, and a focus on whiteness that omits this aspect (from an antiracist perspective) reinforces the status quo, the idea that the white-versus-other divide has nothing to do with inequity. Hence, the act of making whiteness (contingent social construct) explicit but out-of-context (i.e., not as a criticism of racism and white privilege) perpetuates racism.


Whiteness is not a necessary social construct.

The term “whiteness” has at least two different meanings, which should not be confused with each other. One meaning of “whiteness” refers to the contingent social construct of whiteness; the other refers to the necessary social construct of whiteness. Whiteness (contingent social construct)—which can also be called and understood as whiteness (current social construct) for practical purposes—exists and is foundational to racism. However, there is no such thing as whiteness (necessary social construct). The social construct of whiteness is not necessary for society to exist. Whiteness is not a necessary truth; it is a merely a contingent truth. Race currently exists as a social construct, but it does not have to exist as a social construct.

(Obviously, racial color blindness and avoiding racial categorization does nothing to challenge the social construct of race, as it merely allows people unaffected by racism to deny that there is a problem. In addition, although the statement “race is not the problem, racism is” is true, this statement is still made within the narrative that only people of colour are raced or racialized, which is still another contingent truth. A better articulation that emphasizes the unnecessary racialization of people of colour over the idea that racializing people of colour is necessary would be: “racialized people are not the problem; racialization is.”)