Is “Whiteness” & “White Privilege” An Attack on White Identity?

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Image Credit: Northwestern, “Deconstructing Whiteness.”

It is important that we define several important terms. White privilege, or Whiteness, is the term used to describe the advantages afforded to many White people simply because they were born White. A privilege is a special right, an advantage, or immunity granted only available to a particular person or group of people. Therefore, White privilege essentially means that Whites have an advantage over non-Whites in society largely thanks to structural racism (I am thinking and writing about this in a specifically South African context). Racism is “structural” because Apartheid has structured our society in such a way that an enormous number of people are excluded from taking part in our social institutions.

By White identity and ethnicity I simply mean what one is: a White person. A White person is not only an individual with his/her own set of beliefs, views, and so on, but also someone who is part of a sizable group of people sharing a common and distinctive racial, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage (1). This definition of identity no doubt applies across race/cultural groups and can just as easily be applied to Blacks, Coloureds, and others. It is my contention that Whiteness, or White Privilege, a very real phenomenon in a South African context, is not an attack on White identity and ethnicity.

When Blacks use the word “White” it may seem that it is used to refer specifically to skin colour or race. It can, in fact, mean that, and it often does, but it would be incorrect to assume that that is always the case. According to one informative essay penned by the Calgary Anti-Racism Education “it is important to clarify the differences between “white” (a category of ‘race’ with no biological/scientific foundation) and “whiteness” as a powerful social construction with very real, tangible, violent effects” (2). It is this Whiteness that manifests itself in “the ways in which racialized Whiteness becomes transformed into social, political, economic, and cultural behaviour” (3).

Thus, Whiteness is an ideology based on beliefs, values behaviors, habits and attitudes, which result in the unequal distribution of power and privilege based on skin colour (4). Perhaps Louise Forreira in her piece on this exact subject words it best, “Whiteness, in other words, does not refer to having white skin. Whiteness is not conscious racism. It is the idea that the way white people exist in the world – which is not “wrong”, in and of itself – is what is normal, and it gives us social, political, economic and cultural power” (5).


1. Internal Psychology. Ethnic/Racial Identity. Available.

2. CARED. Understanding Whiteness. Available.

3. Henry, F., & Tator, C. 2006.  The colour of democracy: Racism in Canadian society. p. 46-47

4. Frye, M. 1983. “On being White: Thinking toward a feminist understanding of race and race supremacy,” in Politics of reality: Essays in feminist theory.

5. Forreira, L. 2015. On Whiteness and White Guilt. Available.


21 responses to “Is “Whiteness” & “White Privilege” An Attack on White Identity?

  1. Colour very much interests me, and I encourage you to read my book ‘Religion Separates Man From God.’ Colour as you say has become tribal and institutional, but is poorly understood. My own feelings and belief have identified that colour gives us particular characteristics. The original modern humans, were both religious and dark, and from this dark skin we have merged with lighter humans. What gives us our colour generally appears to be from a non human source, not something that humans can control.

    Dark skin, by being closer to our origins, is arguably more godlike, lighter skin is arguably more god less, (not god zero, but god less). Darker people are arguably harder to kill, and light skin easier to kill. To compensate, light skin is often more aggressive, driving things like the arms race, and this contrast is behind much of the tension between dark and light.

    Dark skin appears to me to be more sensitive to religion, light skin less sensitive, this allows ( so I believe ) light skin to be able to raise consciousness, concentration and learning using religion, dark skin much less so. However, religion raises the potential for political / tribal unrest and violence, whether you are dark or light. (Very few of us should be religious)

    Despite this, where there is dark and light, humanity will relatively thrive. We are also arguably at war, with god, or god is at war with humanity. We are in a far better position when there are light and dark within the community because of this war, arguably, dark people inherently and in this context (minimizing religion) are here to protect lighter people.

    This moves me onto something that I struggle with, higher consciousness, and the most advanced amongst us. I think light will inherently have access to higher consciousness, however dark will have access to higher intelligence. Therefore to thrive we will do better with both light and dark skin. Not one or the other but both help humanity to survive and thrive.

    Light and Dark skin are inter dependant

    ‘Religion Separates Man From God,’ an ebook

        • God, is very difficult to kill, those most like god will not need to develop arms or be at the forefront of the arms race.

          If you take any time to study the earliest humans, you will find yourself not with light Europeans but with people from Africa. These early people, indeed I’ve read that some of our earliest ancestors where from pygmy tribes that migrated out of Africa, and where probably dark skinned.

          I can accept that I haven’t thoroughly and painstakingly taken years to to research my conclusions, but our skin colour gives us certain characteristics. If you feed those characteristics into our history. You may come to the same conclusions. Something though tells me, you are like most and haven’t a clue what I’m talking about.

          Your brief replies, don’t acknowledge, my attempt to explain our history, problems, and how, though we are different, this difference is not of our choosing, and neither is it straightforward to differentiate, between, what characterizes humanity, and what is outside being human. Nor do you comment on my closing statement. Light and dark are interdependent, or that, dark people also have a roll in protecting lighter people.

          I am trying to understand our differences, and value them. I do respect your right to not to pursue my complete response.

          • Michael, you’ve made a statement that James picked up on and which you say may be argued for. So would you mind explaning, by kindly indulging our cluelessness, how one’s skin colour (or whatever characteristic you think skin colour indicates) makes a person more godlike or more godless?

            • Ok, at the risk of repeating myself, the first clue is when I start to look at the arms race, God, is not something that is very easy to kill. So it may only be me that gives what this implies, any kind of consideration. Those that are god like, will have little need to develop arms because they are the hardest to kill. But I accept this may make little sense.

              Secondly were the original humans dark or light, are not our human origins closer to where we came from? Again I accept this may not make sense.

              But I would also point out, colour is not of our choosing, I can’t suddenly make myself white tomorrow, and light people cannot over night find themselves with very dark skin. And that line between, what is not controlled by humanity and what is, I doubt I will ever get any closer to understanding or suggesting where that line is.

              • It is precisely because you don’t make sense, but still took the time to comment and thus presumably trying to communicate something, that you are asked to explain yourself. It doesn’t help anybody to hear you say that what you say doesn’t make sense. We already know that. But why would you want to communicate something that makes no sense?
                So, at the risk of repeating my questions, let me try again: what do you mean with the word “godlike”? And how does being closer to human origins make someone more, or less, godlike?

              • James, god is something that isn’t human, possibly god is everything we are not. We cannot create universes, or multiverses, we don’t know everything including how to create universes. We know we are affected by sun and moon, can we not see that when it comes to the universe, there is also some kind of influence, i.e. god, but this influence is largely on our subconscious. What gives us life, what controls our heart, etc. But I also accept as a human and lay human at that, I have not got to the bottom of what god is nor am I likely to.

          • Michael, what you’re saying, mostly just loose assertions for now, just comes across as very unusual; you obviously have a specific concept of “god” from which you are basing these statements. To me, just on first impression, it sounds like your god is a little bit racist (imagine if i reversed what you said, and I said that blacks were a little less godlike than whites!), though I say that from a classic concept of God.
            So, you’d probably need to define “god.”

            • I like you term racism, because that is exactly what I’m trying to explain. There must be something very significant that leaves humanity with what most of us are aware of and why colour often divides us, and is a basis of some tribalistic divisions. And that ‘significant’ thing is after pursuing and trying to apply such assumptions, is that the tension between lighter and darker is something as ‘primeval’ as godlikeness and godlessness. And always hold in mind who leads the arms race, and who as no innate need to lead the arms race, those that are hardest to kill, i.e. the godlike.

              And this is where I feel, somewhat snookered, because as a human, it is almost a pointless exercise to try to define god. But within a human context, I would say god, is something that is in the background, it controls our subconsciousness. It is the most advanced entity we are likely to be aware of. However humans are not god, so then we go on to define what is a human, and here I would say, this is best captured by thinking about consciousness.

              And here I struggle to show that the celebration and exploitation of humanity is in our consciousness, this is why I use the term godlessness, the opposite to what god is, and the higher consciousness in my opinion comes with lighter skin. So I see two components, the advancement, inherent in godlikeness, and the ability to identify and capture godlikeness, i.e. consciousness, found in humans with exceptional consciousness, found in lighter skin that I would say can be best described as godlessness.

              This leads me onto showing / suggesting that humanity through consciousness may well be at odds or in conflict with god, or put more bluntly at war with god, And leads me onto saying if dark skin has a role is to protect light skin.

              But I am trying my best to make sense of what we see around us but I can only say again, most haven’t a clue of what I’m talking about.

              • “higher consciousness in my opinion comes with lighter skin”
                Ah, spoken like a true Aryan! Well, I suppose everyone is entitled to their opinion – free speech and all that. Thanks for trying, Michael.

              • I am trying to follow you. Just in relation to your concept of “god,” you define it as “within a human context, I would say god, is something that is in the background, it controls our subconsciousness.”

                Now, firstly how do you know this about god? I ask because at least for traditional religions, Islam, Christianity, or whatever else, they can appeal to a body of text which they allege to be divinely inspired. These texts don’t have to be true for the point im trying to make, rather these theists have something to appeal to when they talk about God. Now, what is it that your appeal to?

                And what do you mean “within a human context?” in relation to god? It sounds a bit like god has been invented by humans, but then you give this entity some power by saying “it controls our subconsciousness.”

  2. udoantwoord I am going to struggle to show you that our human origins are more closely linked to godlikeness. But where do you think humanity comes from. I am pretty sure our origins are very closely bound up in what god is. And the original modern human is generally accepted to be dark not something that was light.

    But, sorry if I’ve got no where here, I’m clearly no teacher.

    • Michael, I refer back to your original statement: “Dark skin, by being closer to our origins, is arguably more godlike” but then later you say, “I use the term godlessness, the opposite to what god is, and the higher consciousness in my opinion comes with lighter skin.”
      Is there a contradiction or is it just a case of inadequate punctuation?

      • I doubt I’m as thorough as I should be on here. Let us keep in mind the arms race, I think we can use the arms race to give us some common ground. The arms race is dominated by lighter skin. This in itself to me at least asks the question if god is not something that cannot easily be killed, it would not be trying to develop weaponry, because it cannot be killed or easily killed. So thats god, now who on this planet, puts the least effort into developing the arms race. So clumsily put the arms race shows you who is godlike, and who is godless.

        Again, sorry if this doesn’t make sense

  3. I make the point in my book, discussing characteristics of colour, risks, demonization. And those that do demonise me, never get to see, skin colour must give us certain characteristics or we would not be different colours in the first place.

    My intention was to show that we are inter dependant, but, I lack the skills to convey to people that I am little more than ‘black’ neo nazi

  4. Its gone a little quiet, James you ask what do I base my belief in how I describe god. My belief about god simply comes from developing the concept ‘Prayer rests you from god’ – this statement (via poor health) should have cost me my life. But I have already said, as a human I’m unlikely to ever get the point where I can confidently describe god.

    What I can do is from experience, try to develop a picture of what god ‘might’ consist of, and then try to test and observe my belief about god, to see if it explains humanity, and how humanity behaves. My belief should explain human characteristics, and behaviour, if to no one else than to myself. Mostly it does.

    • In other words, Michael, you basically invent “God.” You yourself say that you “develop” a picture of what “god” might be like… But a god we invent is not really a god at all.

      • I sort of agree with you there, but if it reasonably explains humanity and human behaviour, then it is useful (at least to me). But I accept, humanity will never know what god is, only what we think god is.

  5. The theory of whiteness is not an attack on white identity. It’s a RENEWAL of it. It’s a false negative designed by white people, for white people, with the specific intent of creating a white backlash.

    It comes from, so to speak, false teachers running Left and Right. Or more precisely, academic sophists using a strategy with Right Wing goals but designed to appear to the world as Left Wing.

  6. Pingback: How to Skin a White Man: A Brief Manual For Those Who Hate White Skin | James Bishop's Theological Rationalism·

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