White Racial Identity

Many white people have a difficult time describing what white racial identity means to them. There are also many people who link white racial identity with being White American and feel clear about what it means to them to be American. If your family has lived in the United States for several generations, you might have lost touch with the cultural identities within your family history prior to their immigration to the United States. On the other hand, you might identify with American culture and the cultures from which your family history originated.

If you identify as white or you are considered white, you likely have strong feelings and perhaps strong opinions about racism. You might be deeply disturbed by police killing of unarmed black people or you might be deeply disturbed by the call to defund the police. Whatever your political views might be, it has become difficult to remain neutral or to keep your views to yourself.  Family, friends, and communities of white people are experiencing painful conflicts with each other and often within themselves. Often discussions about racism are conducted on social media, generating conflict, division, misunderstanding, emotional upset, and a lack of resolution.

In the United States, white supremacy is intrinsic to our culture. It is not the entirety of our culture. Everyone raised into US culture has absorbed elements of white supremacy culture.  There are white people who consider themselves anti-racist, white people who believe racism is over, and white people who believe that it is black people who are racist. The conflict between white people is often about who is and isn’t racist. It is often the source of bitter fighting, sometimes in unspoken or hidden ways.

If you are white and concerned about racism, consider yourself an antiracist, or consider yourself White American, no matter what your perspective is on issues related to race and racism if you are distressed and concerned about these issues I can help. I’m committed to helping you explore these issues in a way that:

  • Affirms your humanity without shaming you

  • Seeks to understand the personal experiences that inform your beliefs, while challenging beliefs that might be causing conflict, misunderstanding, and pain for you and others around you

  • Helps you to seek out new and enriching experiences

At the end of this section, you’ll find a link to articles and resources if you are interested in learning more.

Conflict and emotional distress related to white racial identity can manifest in the following ways:

  • Distress about the current political climate and racism

  • Feeling confused or wish to explore what white racial identity, White American identity, or being antiracist means to you

  • Distressing and traumatic experiences related to racial justice activism

  • Experiencing intense guilt about being white, struggling with intense anger and hatred toward white people, and/or feeling compelled to do something while feeling helpless or confused about what to do

  • Recognizing distressing racist thoughts, feelings, and/or behaviors in yourself maybe for the first time

  • Experiencing interpersonal conflict about politics and/or racism with family, friends, coworkers, and/or within your community including social media community

  • Considering yourself not racist and distressed, confused, and/or angry about being told you have engaged in racist thinking and/or behavior

  • Feeling alone in your perspective on these issues

How I can help

  1. Help you explore how you came to identify as white and understand what white identity means to you. I can help you to learn about white identity within your family history and within the history of United States culture.
  2. Help you to explore other cultural identities you hold and how those identities interact with white racial identity. Often connection with these other identities might feel lost, vague, or contradictory. We can work on helping you reshape and integrate your cultural identities in ways that feel most authentic to you.
  3. A crucial step in this work is to help you understand and manage the terrible anxiety white people experience about being perceived as racist and about being called racist. It is this anxiety that often is at the heart of conflict between white people. I’ll help you to face this anxiety with compassion, curiosity, and faith which can create opportunities for deep personal growth, healing, and enhancing your capacity to bridge gaps of difference between people.
  4. Identify and explore how racist thinking shows up in your mind and can manifest in your behavior. I’ll help you understand how racism is inherent to white culture and to guide you from stagnating guilt to finding your calling in the work of antiracism.
  5. Learn ways to productively address conflict about racism and political perspectives within your family, friendships, and other settings. I’ll help you more fully understand the underlying sources of the conflict. We can then develop ways for you to find commonality across differences, better understand the person behind the beliefs, consider ways you might learn to shift your perspective, build on other aspects of your relationships where there is more mutual understanding and enjoyment of each other, accept the limits of your control, and set boundaries when necessary.