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Are All White People Racists?

Updated on December 18, 2008

Color blindness, White Liberal Syndrome and other identity problems for the dominant Eurocentric oppressive class

If you are White, ask yourself what it means to be White. What do you come up with? Honestly, it is not a trick question. When questioned, most Whites answer simply that they never thought about it and don’t have much to say about it. When push comes to shove, most usually, Whites will identify with a particular ethnic group (e.g. “I am Italian” or “I am Swedish”). They never think about being White because of the invisibility of “White privilege”. It means Whites are oblivious to the advantages of being White (D.W. Sue, 2003).

So what does this have to do with being racists? After all, just because I do not think about being White doesn’t mean that I am a participant in the oppression. Does it? Believe me when I tell you that I have been struggling with this for several months now (see Melting Pot article) and it is all because of the multicultural emphasis of the master degree program that I am in. I have become a multicultural blurting menace (especially to my daughter who was fortunate enough to escape by going away to college). Hey, don’t get me wrong; I do think multiculturalism (i.e. being open to the unique perspective that every individual has to offer - not just from the stand point of race or ethnicity either) is great. I have only been struggling because every once in awhile some statement or attitude slips through (in my studies) that seems to suggest that multiculturalism is for everyone except Whites (and then it would not be about the unique perspective that every individual has to offer – would it?).

So what’s the deal with that? Am I being paranoid? Defensive? Guilty? Who me? I like everyone (well almost – but they are White anyway so they don’t count). It really ticked me off when Dr. D.W. Sue stated point blankly on DVD that “All Whites are Racists”. Wow and just when I was getting back to feeling comfortable talking the multicultural party line again.

The truth is that studies show that Blacks generally prefer Black faces and Whites generally prefer White faces (Ivey & Ivey, 2004). Why such a radical statement about Whites? I asked my professor (who is a Black woman). In her wisdom, she said that we have all learned about racism and that we all (regardless of race) learn about oppression and have exercised it from the oppressor’s stance from early in life. The role of multiculturalism is to turn that around.

Well, now that makes sense. And it also helps me understand why I have gotten mixed messages from various students of Color. They are struggling with this too. The difference is that they don’t have the invisible veil of White privilege to make race a non-issue for them.

So what is a White racist to do to become a multicultural citizen in good standing?

The first thing is to recognize that there is a difference between a blatant KKK, White supremacist racist and the ordinary, run of the mill “color blind” type. Most Whites are well intentioned and fit into the “color blind” category. This is insidious racism. Being color blind is a ridiculous denial of an important part of a person’s identity. Can we be blind to someone’s sex? Does the recognition of their sexuality make us sexists? Clearly that is ridiculous. And so it is with race. The reason that Whites are uncomfortable about it is because they have no White identity. Whites need to think about it and figure out what being White means. It seems that when that happens there will be a realization of all the unearned things that are easy just because of being White. It will make Whites more cognizant of the fact that there still is a heck of a lot of social injustice out there. And it will make Whites comfortable enough to be genuinely interested in other races.

But let’s not go extreme here. The White Liberal Syndrome is when Whites develop either a paternalistic protector role or the over identification with another minority group (out of guilt and shame for their inadvertent White oppression participation) (Sue & Sue, 2007). Guess what! Nobody wants to be patronized. This approach is equal to more White oppression.

The reality is that we all start out as innocents who are indoctrinated by the way our culture is. My professor was very wise to point out that this happens to us all. We need to think about it about it in order to change the way we deal with it and to change the way we hand it to the next generation.

So here is your chance to think about it. If you are White, what does being White mean to you? And for everyone: Do you think you are a closet racist?

Ivey, A. E., & Ivey, M. B. (2007). Intentional interviewing and counseling: Facilitating client development in a multicultural society (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson.


Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice.  (5th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.



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    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 6 years ago from SWFL

      I understand your sentiments. It is important to note that people who segregate themselves typically are still in a lower stage of racial identity development (no matter what color).

      Thanks for your comment!

    • JAILTALK profile image

      JAILTALK 6 years ago from Oregon

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts. I agree that we whites don't really have a real identity to be proud of. I think it is sad many Indians have lost their native language and many cultures.

      There are pros and cons to being a melting pot. I believe we are all brothers and sisters.

      I used to raise cattle. There were angus, charolais, etc.... I don't believe they were predjudiced, it was just a color.

      Now we are scared to use the term a "colored person". I am so naive, I always thought it was OK.-Didn't mean I liked them less or more.

      I do have to admit I am jealous of the Black College Fund Programs, etc...Can you imagine us having A White College Scholarship? How are we going forward when they hang on to segregating themselves in ways we could never do?

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 8 years ago from SWFL

      Hello James,

      When people behave as you described they are in one of the early, more immature stages of racial identity development which is characterized by chauvinistic pride and hatred of those who are different (true for Blacks or Whites). Some people have arrested development in this stage (and some just get arrested;)... examples of this are when some Blacks are disrespectful to people of their race that really should be admired (C. Rice and Bill Cosby).

      It is unfortunate that many people spend a life time stuck... this is true for a lot of development, bad relationships, dysfunctional behavior and yes, immature stages of racial identity.

      Thanks for your comments!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      I believe people should have freedom of association, as granted in our Bill of Rights. 

      The town in which I was born, Benton Harbor, Michigan, was mixed races until race riots broke out there in 1968.  Many white people were assaulted, some killed, homes and businesses vandalized or burnt down.  The white people gradually moved away; leaving the town 99% black.  The ones who left were called racists.  But I was there and it was a matter of safety—not racism per se.

      You have written a thoughtful and interesting Hub and I enjoyed reading it.

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 8 years ago from SWFL

      Hi Eswar,

      People want to celebrate who they are and be comfortable sharing that.

      Thanks for your comment. It has been a while since I visted Hub pages.

    • eswar profile image

      eswar 8 years ago from India

      I still cannot understand how come they are finding the differences with colors, and how people recongnize which is better color and which is not. If you are a strong believer of the birth of existence that "Adam and Eve" were the first , then we are all brothers and sisters.

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Hi, Thanks for commenting but take a few to digest some food for thought.

    • profile image

      spike 9 years ago

      I have not read this article or comments. But to answer the questions are all people racists. The answer is YES! Being white I am not only talking for myself but for my family and white friends I have. This might be only a small fraction of the white population but yes yes yes. Just being honest.

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Hi Mike,

      Yes, I agree that "people are people in the end" - but believe it or not that is the typical White approach to it (as I am learning in my classes - it is called the "Etic" approach). Whites want to find similarities (me too) while people of color like the "emic" approach which favors focusing on differences. I say that we need both. If you focus too much on differences it could lead the uninformed to be fearful and even hateful. What do you think?

    • Mike the salesman profile image

      Mike the salesman 9 years ago from birmingham alabama/sherwood oregon

      Nice story Lori! Very Thought provoking! I think in large part black faces prefer black and white white, is less a hate or love thing.. more comfortable with like customs. language, etc... People are people in the end! happy holidays!

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Hey, I always wanted to be a Hillbilly when I was a kid;)

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 9 years ago from Free and running....

      We have english roots but hundred of years being hillbillies... and of course we don't want to think of ourselves in that way but thats our heritage.

    • lori763 profile image

      lori763 9 years ago from SWFL

      Hi Goldentoad!

      Thanks for stopping by. It sounds like your cousins are pretty typical in that that they don't think much about being White because it does equal dreams and goals for them. I am pretty much in the same boat. I don't know what to think of Whiteness either - I am more inclined to think of my Norwegian/Swedish heritage.

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 9 years ago from Free and running....

      I am half white and half Mexican, I thought nothing of the mix until I was around 12 when people started asking what nationality I was. But skipping all that, white means nothing to me culturally but it has liberated me from thinking I am one over the other meaning, I am neither mexican or white but just a man. I think my white cousins do feel threatened(about being PC) to some respect but for the most part, I think they have little interest in what it means to be white and look at themselves more as American, meaning its okay for them to dream and have goals.