Contact is the first stage of awareness of White identity, and individuals generally adhere to the “colorblind” motto. They see racial differences, but do not find them necessary. In fact, they may feel that talking about racism is a rude or racist act. In this stage, people are not consciously racist.
However, this seemingly non-racist position often covers unconscious racist beliefs transmitted by family, community, and culture. If the individual is confronted with real-world experiences or knowledge that uncovers the privileges of White skin, they may grow into the next stage, disintegration.
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|Stage of White Identity||Common Manifestations||What You Can Do Next|
|Contact||“Colorblind” motto; Sense that talking about racism is a racist act.||Scroll down for the action steps|
|Disintegration||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|
|Reintegration||Blame-the-victim or other defensive attitudes. Caution, this is a regressive stage!||Learn about the Reintegration stage|
|Pseudo-Independence||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|
|Immersion/Emersion||Concern deepening enough to start conversations with other Whites about racism.||Learn about the Immersion stage|
|Autonomy||Positive White identity while also an active anti-racist.||Learn about the Autonomy stage|
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
If you are at the contact stage, educating yourself is essential. A major goal is to understand why talking about racism is useful. Utilize resources about racial inequality and biases. Reject the desire to ask black, indigenous, or people of color to explain racism.
Instead, find resources created by people of color to help educate yourself, or offer to financially compensate the people who are teaching you. Better still, do the homework and help yourself grow into the next stage of White identity.
Take the 21-Day Antiracism Challenge
The challenge comes from the University of California San Diego. Start with Section 1: How We Got Here to understand how good people can carry racist ideas. Go easy, and it may be helpful to talk with an antiracist friend.
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack (Peggy McIntosh)
- Whistling Vivaldi (NPR)
- “I’m Still Here” by Austin Channing Brown (Art of the Sermon)
- “White Awake” by Daniel Hill (FSP Chicago)
- “Walking While Black” (Garnette Cadogan)
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria (Beverly Tatum)
- I’m Still Here (Austin Channing Brown)
- Whistling Vivaldi (Claude Steel)
- White Awake (Daniel Hill)
Sources: 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.