The 8 White Identities

By Barnor Hesse

There is a regime of whiteness, and there are action-oriented white identities. People who identify with whiteness are one of these. It’s about time we build an ethnography of whiteness, since white people have been the ones writing about and governing Others.

1. White Supremacist
Clearly marked white society that preserves, names, and values white superiority

2. White Voyeurism
Wouldn’t challenge a white supremacist; desires non-whiteness because it’s interesting, pleasurable; seeks to control the consumption and appropriation of non-whiteness; fascination with culture (ex: consuming Black culture without the burden of Blackness)

3. White Privilege
May critique supremacy, but a deep investment in questions of fairness/equality under the normalization of whiteness and the white rule; sworn goal of ‘diversity’

4. White Benefit
Sympathetic to a set of issues but only privately; won’t speak/act in solidarity publicly because benefitting through whiteness in public (some POC are in this category as well)

5. White Confessional
Some exposure of whiteness takes place, but as a way of being accountable to POC


; seeks validation from POC [person of colour]

6. White Critical
Take on board critiques of whiteness and invest in exposing/marking the white regime; refuses to be complicit with the regime; whiteness speaking back to whiteness

7. White Traitor
Actively refuses complicity; names what’s going on; intention is to subvert white authority and tell the truth at whatever cost; needed to dismantle institutions

8. White Abolitionist

Changing institutions, dismantling whiteness, and not allowing whiteness to reassert itself

The introduction was missing before, I forget where I got it but it was also on an image like where I found the intro – an always interesting tumblr, twitter or WP to follow.

Content note: examples of non-black prejudice. There could be a parallel list for anyone who benefits from anti-blackness, personally or through the system. In Mauritius (as in Rodrigues and Agalega, it’s the Abolition of Slavery day), when it comes to anti-blackness, most people of colour, parts of ethnic groups even mixed-black, would also oppressive. White supremacy in spite of a minority white population does not surprise anyone, and there is ethnic, class and caste supremacy too. I went to a non-black POC dermatologist the other day who asked seemingly weird questions to my non-black POC dad, to determine that he could then rant about how our hometown is today and reminisce the good(not!) old days where the town was white managed and surrounded by ‘cités’, which remains the Mauritian equivalent of shantytowns, where the white people’s black employees stayed. That situation was better according to the racist doctor (who grew up in a privileged area there, before Independence). Our older doctors have usually studied in Europe, well, just to illustrate with an example. Another is the denial (tacit or not) that race has anything to do with the fact that just in the past few weeks (April 2015 edit), there has been rapes (and a murder) of a 13-yr old and an 11yr-old black girl from the ‘cités’. People blame poverty, not systemic violence, they don’t realise they hear of a few compared to many unreported cases. Even with that age group, I’ve seen educated liberals say, on sharing the news, that they hope it’s not true. Never ever say that, more so to/about a very young black girl!

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