The Problem with White Pride

Oakland, 1969

Oakland, 1969

 

The Race Files publication of Pakou Her’s My Racial Trigger: Raising Brown Babies sparked an unexpected debate about white pride. In particular, this video got the ire of one Race Files reader -

The little girl in the clip is biracial. She celebrates this by shouting “hapa power!” while raising her fists in the air. “Hapa” is a Hawaiian word meaning part or half that is often used to refer to mixed race people, especially those of Asian or Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian descent.

In response, a reader named Jana wrote the following comment,

So when a half asian girl does it it’s “cute” and “empowering,” but when a white girl does it she’s a racist and white supremacist?

I don’t usually play with trolls. People who post controversial comments on websites in order to incite pointless arguments aren’t generally welcome here. But this particular commentator was such a great foil, I couldn’t resist talking back to her. By the time we were done, she’d written this,

So, all that white means is racism, genocide, and oppression. There’s nothing to be proud of to be European, to having a European heritage, it’s racist for Europeans to be proud of their culture and what they achieved…

I’m guessing Jana knows exactly what form of racist jujitsu she’s attempting here, but she’s right about one thing. All that “white” means is racism, genocide, and oppression.

That’s right. No apologies.

“White” is a racial category designed to lift those who bear the label to supremacy over other races. White supremacy is the basis of white power. And white pride is nothing more than pride in all that has been done in the name of white power.

Together, white supremacy, and white power are critical pillars of the dehumanizing logic that justified an American political system that, in it’s purest form, equated race with nationality and class. In the name of white supremacy, those labeled “white” enslaved people and waged wars against them, including wars that ended in genocide. The legacy of these ideas and the political system they justified lives on in such all-American institutions as our electoral college, and in racial inequity in employment, educational opportunity, wealth, life expectancy, and criminal profiling.

Inclusion in whiteness was a racial bribe the accepting of which allowed Europeans previously trapped into lifelong poverty and class exploitation in Europe and the American colonies to enjoy social mobility. A few of those labeled “white” got so rich from genocide, the slave trade, and slave labor that all that wealth is still key to American global economic domination. And this history is how the whole idea of America as a land of unfettered opportunity and social mobility got started.

So let’s be clear. White power is white supremacy. White power was consolidated for no other reason than to accomplish the goal of supremacy.

To allow the history of Europeans to be equated with the story of whiteness is wrong. It erases the history of accomplishment of Europeans in Europe and in North America and reduces that history to a story about white racist oppression.

And, don’t get it twisted. Regardless of racist attempts to equate white power with “black power,” or “brown power,” or “hapa power,” white power is not the same as any of those other expressions of race pride at all. “Hapa power” is a celebration of a racial identity that defies our history of racial segregation in America because it brings together white and non-white. And, in the context of a history of white supremacy and current racial inequities, claiming power for people of color of all kinds is a statement of an aspiration for equity, not supremacy.

I’m sure there will be those who will call me a hater, but I’ve got no problem with European pride, or even European American pride. European nations may have colonized the world, but Europeans are not just their colonial history, and European Americans are a lot more than the history of slavery and genocide in America. There’s a lot to be proud of in being Irish, or French, Spanish or Italian, Basque, Greek, Swiss, English, Slovak, Croatian, or Russian. But white? White pride is just an excuse to wield unjust white power.

 

 

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20 Responses to The Problem with White Pride

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  1. Shana Turner September 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    It’s so basic….thanks for spelling it out Scot. I hope that woman reads this and receives it as a gift. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RACE AND ETHNICITY! Be proud of your cultural heritage, the food, music, dance, achievements. But “white” is different than any of racial identification. Make the distinction and understand when you are talking about your culture and when you are talking about the construct that oppression and supremacy exists within.

  2. John-W September 30, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

    Good read. Given your closing – spelling out what “non-people of color” could call their respective pride feelings — the listing of what groups currently fall under “white,” do you think that it would help advance the dialogue by dropping the discussion of group pride using the terms of racial identity, which is an artificial construct for justifying power relations? Like instead of “Black Power” it could be “African American Power.” By continuing to use these race-based terms we continue to confuse the hell out of people who are on the upside of the power structure – the white folks — because they still don’t get that “white,” “black,” “asian” aren’t really useful designations for groups of people and, worse, are associated with a social construct to justify shitty behavior.

    As a white person it’s taken years for me to get to a point where light finally dawned on Marblehead and I’m starting to better understand race as principally a social/class thing that only has a middling biological aspect to it, when I spent nearly 30 years being taught and having reinforced ideas that were barely removed from phrenology. (And no, I don’t expect anyone to say congratulations or give me a cookie.) It just feels like one group of people is using one set of definitions for some words and another group is using a totally set of different definitions for the same words.

    • Scot Nakagawa
      Scot Nakagawa September 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm #

      Hmmm…interesting proposition though I generally tend to think that dealing with race by not acknowledging it doesn’t work either. While it’s just a social construct it has real cultural, political, economic consequences. So, we all live in the fiction of the ideology of race AND with the real, material consequences. There’s racism, and there’s structural racial inequality. But I get where you’re coming from…thanks for the comment. I see some interesting angles in what you’re saying and will mull it over.

    • Mia Imani September 30, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      The problem with replacing “Black Power” with “African American Power” is that “African American” is a soft pedal, misnomer to begin with. Africa is a continent that is home to many nations with myriad different colors within those borders. South African actress Charlize Theron, is technically an “African American”. I believe that white people need to stop being afraid of the word and label “Black.” It is the white controlled media that has conflated “Black” with so many negative images that it seems to have scarred the psyche of some white Americans until they feel uncomfortable with the word/label itself. That is something you need to undo for yourselves. White people only seem confused when it comes to other groups of people having agency over their identity. No, we don’t need to re-name “Black Power” anything but what it is. Instead, we need to speak truth to that power and move forward. You’ll get used to it in time. Or not.

  3. BakingYourNoodle September 30, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    To John W and Scot
    Why must you get rid off the word Black, why not just lose the “power”? Black power as an idea or ideology does not need mainstrem (white) participation or approval. The response of “White power” to the idea or the saying “Black power” is not a good enough reason for Black people not just African American people by the way…. to abandon the phrase. As the kids say, “You Mad? Stay Mad!”
    If you feel some kind of way about Black power then you already know that it’s not for you or about you. The fact that you feel that Black power needs to change because how it’s perceived by the people its not “talking” to is silly. Your post was the ultimate in Tone Policing and I doubt you even realize it. “Black and I am Proud”, “Black Power”, “Young Gifted and Black” mean something to us. If that is not understood or liked by you so be it. Understanding or “Tolerance” YUCK! is not the goal mutual respect is what has never been offered or even on the table and until that happens let us respect our history, our struggle and our survival any way we see fit to do so. Anything else is just sophisticated derailment and insertion.

    • Scot Nakagawa
      Scot Nakagawa September 30, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

      Thanks for this comment. Yes, we need to name the world we live in, speak the truth that empowers us, and be the change we want to create in the world. Black power, Asian power, Native power, Brown power…all power to all people. But white power? We’ve already had way too much of that.

      • ted1545 September 6, 2014 at 10:50 am #

        Sorry I don’t get it. ” Black power, Asian power, Native power, Brown power…all power to all people. But white power? We’ve already had way too much of that.”…truly silly argument IMO. All you are doing is throwing gas in the fire to put it out. Divisional crap…that is all it is. I am very proud to be a white American and I have nothing to do with anything anyone did in the past. I embrace all and rub elbows with all. Try to unite…try not to divide. That is what this country needs and folks like you who write stuff that people read have, to me, an obligation to stop the hatred. I want to also add…white supremacy, black supremacy (yes it exists in many minds also), Asian supremacy, etc, is simply dumb. That is what you should have written but I am not you…I have no idea why you are what you are but “power” to you.

    • John-W September 30, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

      Obviously if people want to use the term then do so. The idea of having pride in a group of people who have historically been savaged by the dominant socio-economic system and whose descendents are still contending with the very real systemic racism that exists sounds good to me. Many of the most salient and identifiable parts of U.S. culture have been defined by the people who have been most screwed by the dominant culture of the nation for hundreds of years. There’s a lot to be proud of there and/or to admire regardless of your background.

      But the point of the original post was about clueless people talking about “white power” and “white pride” as an equal concept to “black power” which obviously it isn’t. But it gets pretty damned hard to define why to these people if the terms we are using are so complicated, loaded and misused. I’m not saying “black power” needs to change because white people can’t understand it. I’m saying that don’t be surprised that white people are going to start misusing terms like “[fill in the blank] power” and “reverse racism” and not understand your criticism of them if we can’t get some sort of shared language — just a lot of screaming at one another. So no tone policing intended (although I don’t really know what that means). Be as Black, Proud, Gifted and/or Mad as you want to be. But getting “mutual respect” is going to require some degree of communication with people, and that means figuring out a common tongue. But your own ideas and concepts are yours to shape and define without worrying that it’ll upset other folks.

  4. Duke B. September 30, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    One of the symptoms of many who have privilege (in any axis) is the ignorance of power dynamics. Those with privilege live in the conception that they are on equal understanding with everyone else. This is where the “if you can do it, then I should be able to do it” comes from. With an understanding of power in the privileged/oppressed dynamics, a lot of this will make so much more sense. I realize that this is no news to many readers here.

    It’s unfortunate that certain folks of European descent have come to see white as synonymous with the myriad ethnic heritages of Europe. It is only when those of European descent forget their heritage does white have any meaning. And by doing so, those that have forgotten are insisting that the rest of the world forget theirs as well. It’s arguable that the therm “Asian” is only relevant in a society that wants to erase people’s true heritage – to flatten a multitude of ethnicity into one. To me, “Asian” is a white-centric perspective – just like “people of color”. I’ve always advocated that “white” folks needed to: 1. discover that they’re white (having forgotten their heritage), 2. dismantle this “whiteness” in themselves and help to do so in others, and 3. take their rightful place as fellow humans amongst those that still honor the ancestors.

  5. Arronski (@Arronski) September 30, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    White people don’t originate from anywhere except for Europe…Just like black people don’t originate from anywhere except for Africa.

    • Duke B. September 30, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

      White is a construct that is very different than other concepts of ethnicity or heritage. Black, Asian, Latino, Native-Americans, etc. comes out of the white construct, over-simplifying a vast group of people into something convenient for the white-centric view. Is Black a label those that were enslaved chose for themselves? Or is it a label of those that had power over them?

      As an example, the concept of “Asian” has very little meaning in Asia. Peop0le there know that they are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc. “Asian” only has real meaning where disparate groups are flatten into one.

      The unfortunate thing here is that a lot folks of European descent are also held hostage by whiteness. Remember that 100 years ago, the Irish and the Italians (many Mediterranean and Eastern Europeans as well) weren’t considered white. It’s a devil’s bargain…

      • Scot Nakagawa
        Scot Nakagawa October 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

        This is a really useful comment. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Samantha Tesner September 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Thanks for another great article Scott! If I may… I really cannot see what is so difficult to understand and/or why it is that whites always want what others have. ‘We’ have done this for centuries, throughout history, claiming land that was not ours to claim, claiming knowledge and skills inherited from others and claimed it was our own.

    Lawdy Lawd, during Apartheid no-one referred to a white person as (usually preceded by ‘an’) African (for example)yet come 1994 white people were clamouring for the right to be called “African”; to say to a white person now “you are not African”, causes as much hysteria as the word “racist” does :D

    Then it was the “white history month” that ‘we’ wanted and then “Hey black people have the N word so we also want our own special word (cracker)”; and now, lo and behold “black people have black pride I also want white pride” *rolling eyes*.

    Lady you can want white pride as much as you want…but this is one thing you cannot have. Because and I hate to be the one to break it to you but “you have nothing to be proud of” .

    You see, “black pride” is the celebration of a culture, a history, a people and language. One that has not been built on the pain and suffering of another and one that holds no hatred/prejudice, one that does not exclude another (or it would be “black supremacy”) Whereas white people simply have not learned and cannot seem to be proud without excluding others that are not white (for one) hence white “supremacy” and not “pride”.

    … what’s that you say? You’re just proud to be white and want to celebrate that and you do not exclude anyone because you’re not prejudiced right? You want to celebrate your language, your culture, your history, and white people… *thinking*. The same white people who forced a people into slavery, forced a people off their land, deprived a people of the right to be educated in their own language? The same white people who have tried for centuries to erase the history of a people?
    Have black people ever done this to white people? No? One is “pride” the other is “supremacy”.”

    Is this the pride you wish to celebrate.

  7. With Love Glenn October 1, 2013 at 12:35 am #

    Excellent article (as usual) Mr. Nakagawa. Hitting the nail on the head.

    European-Americans get all bent out of shape whenever their freedom is infringed upon.
    Two areas that immature Euros continually loose it over are:

    1. They can not get away with saying “White Power” or wearing a pin that says “White Pride”
    2. They are not allowed to use the N-word.

    Only two things that Euros don’t have privilege with, and they get their feelings all hurt over it and will spend hours defending their “right” to reclaim those two privileges. #smdh lol

    • Mia Imani October 4, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      With Love Glenn: You are so right on both points. As for your #2, They need to realize that no one is stopping them from using the “enwurd”. It was their word to begin with. If anyone can re-claim it, it’s the people who invented it. They just need to accept the consequences if they choose to use it.

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