The last stage of positive white identity, autonomy, is reached when an individual has a clear understanding of and positive connection to their White racial identity while also actively pursuing social justice. Helms’s stages of White racial identity are about finding a positive racial identity as White while becoming an active anti-racist. These individuals have found that balance, even as they stay open and recognize there is always more to learn.
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|Stage of White Identity
|What You Can Do Next
|“Colorblind” motto. Sense that talking about racism is a racist act.
|Learn about the Contact stage
|Aware of racism in family or community. Sense of (White) guilt often mixed with curiosity. Focus on individual actions and merit, such as, “I have a black friend.”
|Learn about the Disintegration stage
|Blame-the-victim or other defensive attitudes. Caution, this is a regressive stage!
|Learn about the Reintegration stage
|Becoming aware of skin color privileges. May look to people of color for teaching. May confuse racism with other kinds of discrimination.
|Learn about the Pseudo-Independence stage
|Concern deepening enough to start conversations with other Whites about racism.
|Learn about the Immersion stage
|Positive White identity while also an active antiracist.
|Scroll down for the action steps
White Racial Identity Model by Janet E. Helms with adaptations by Anna Stamborski, M. Div Candidate (2022), Nikki Zimmermann, M. Div candidate (2021), and Bailie Gregory, M. Div, M.S. Ed.
What to do next
Keep on, keeping on. Be sure to build support into your communities and self-care into your daily practice. Mentor others on how to become a positive ally for racial equity.
Take the 21-Day Antiracism Challenge
The University of California San Diego offers this challenge. Day 4: Allying, Action, and Accountability is most relevant to the Autonomy stage of White Awareness. The material shown in Days 1-3 are useful in talking with others.
- Social media strategies for raising awareness
- Reflective journaling (written by Nii Addo Abrahams, M.A., M. Div. / Twitter & Instagram @_nickyflash_). No’s suggest areas where you can look deeper and improve your antiracism practice.
- Does your solidarity last longer than a news cycle?
- Does your solidarity make you lose sleep at night?
- Does your solidarity put you in danger?
- Does your solidarity cost you relationships?
- Does your solidarity take away time from other things you could be doing?
- Does your solidarity change the way you spend your money?
- Does your solidarity make you a disruptive presence in white spaces?
- Does your solidarity challenge your country’s values?
- Does your solidarity make you think you’re not racist?
- Does your solidarity change how you read your Bible?
- Does your solidarity change how you preach?
- Does your solidarity happen when no one is looking?
- Does your solidarity ever cause you to speak out when no one wants to listen?
- Does your solidarity ever cause you to shut up when you want to say something?
- Does your solidarity change the way you vote?
- Does your solidarity cause you to denounce our current president?
- Does your solidarity include cis-het Black women?
- Does your solidarity include Black queer and trans folks?
- Does your solidarity make you suspicious of predominantly white institutions?
- Does your solidarity cause you to believe in costly reparations?
- Does your solidarity assuage your white guilt?
- Does your solidarity have room for Black rage?
- The End of Policing (Alex Vitale)