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 –

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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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By Scot Nakagawa

Scot Nakagawa is a political strategist and writer who has spent more than four decades exploring questions of structural racism, white supremacy, and social justice. Scot’s primary work has been in the fight against authoritarianism, white nationalism, and Christian nationalism. Currently, Scot is co-lead of the 22nd Century Initiative, a project to build the field of resistance to authoritarianism in the U.S.

Scot is a past Alston/Bannerman Fellow, an Open Society Foundations Fellow, and a recipient of the Association of Asian American Studies Community Leader Award. His writings have been included in Race, Gender, and Class in the United States: An Integrated Study, 9th Edition,  and Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.

Scot's political essays, briefings, and other educational media can be found at his newsletter, We Fight the Right at He is a sought after public speaker and educator who provides consultation on campaign and communications strategy, and fundraising.

39 replies on “The Problem with White Pride”

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.

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.

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.

Oh thank you so much I have been trying to explain this for years and you broke it down so nice. I will be quoting this article for years to come.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Yes typical response….i hqve nothing to do with the past…oh really…then pondet this…you reap the benefits of what your forefathers did to my people….i am so happy to see day by day your supremist society is crumbling worldwide…and you know this…i know what it will be like when it finally crumbles…you will all be exposed for what you truly are….genocidal maniacs…ask the afri an….tazmanians…maori…austrailian aborines…and native americans….the proof is right there….karma is comming to a street near you …lol

This is a really stupid, unintelligent and prejudiced comment. I can’t speak for the poster you replied to, but the fact is, you have NO idea whether they are “reaping the benefits” of black slavery in America. Do you not know that only a tiny portion of white Americans actually had slaves? Do you not realize that “white people” don’t share a single background, and that they come from a lot of different countries and cultural traditions? Not all white people living in America today had forefathers who were involved with slavery. In fact, most don’t. Many are either descended from white folks who fought AGAINST slavery and FOR equality, or else not descended from “the forefathers” at all because their own white parents came later on from another country.

It’s sad and pathetic that you seem to expect everyone with light skin to answer for the crimes of a few, and to whom they have zero connection in the first place. Can we hold you personally accountable and threaten bad karma for you, since your ancestors undoubtedly had slaves somewhere back along the line? Maybe more recently in Africa, maybe in ancient Rome (Moorish traders coming through Greece and Italy were very active in the slave trade). Somewhere along the line, most of us have ancestors who either owned slaves or were slaves (often times both at different points along the timeline). But very few white people living now have any relation to what “the forefathers” did to “your people.”

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.

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.

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…

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 😀

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.

I am of Hebrew descent, first of all. My comment is this, that all of this seems like self – segregation to me. Reverend King would be heartbroken to hear all of us so focused on our own and other’s color of skin. You change the world one heart at a time. If you focus on loving your neighbor as yourself regardless of what they look like or who they are descended from, then you have increased love by one heart which in turn is able to love others as you have loved them. I hope one day we use this formula to change our world instead of the one where we all identify and therefore exclude others. Love your enemies and bless those who curse you.

Personally I’m proud of what my (white) ancestors have achieved and contributed to the world that we live in today, whether or not they have enslaved the other races – those races were also guilty of it in the past when they had the means to do so, and if the roles were reserved likely would have done the same to us as we have done to them, for example Greeks, Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, Africans, Japanese, Koreans, Mongols, Israelis and of course the Ottoman Empire, although of course they didn’t manage to do it on the scale that Western Europe did. Playing the “whites have nothing to be proud of because they enslaved people” card holds no water – virtually every nation(and race along with it) in the world has been guilty of enslaving people in the past, treating them worse than animals, slaughtering each other to gain power over each other.

I’m proud of the technology we’ve developed, the society and culture we’ve created, the alliances we’ve created amongst members of the other races around the world. I don’t consider any race “better” than another, but if you say that the white race has nothing to be proud of, yet the black race has, there’s something wrong with you, and you are in fact a racist.

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

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.

Scott, I don’t think any “race power” is appropriate. White people are not inherently racist. Every race is equally capable to commit atrocities. Is Spanish power ok? You would probably say yes. However, Columbus genocided an entire culture. Black power? Just look at the violence in africa. There is always negative history associated with each race, so is any race power really acceptable according to your criteria? Even pride of one’s race as an individual insinuates that their race is better than another. How bout this: I am a member of the human race, we are no better than one another. A requirement for this notion to part of every human beings foundation is the non existence of “race power.”

“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…”

bull pucky. Europeans are responsible for the industrial revolution. you like computers? it was Europeans that developed them. steam engines and with them, railways? European inventions. mass assembly lines which all modern manufacturing uses? European descended person. the steel industry which led to the modern world we know is European in origin. the most dominate economic system was born from the Ideas of a Scotsman, Adam Smith. it was Europeans that went out and explored the world and sailed the seas.

are there some things Europeans have done in history that are horrible and wrong? of course. but to pretend that white/European people are the only ones is wrong. Africans sold rival tribe members to European slave traders. Asians have killed those they conquered. Natives used to slaughter neighboring tribes.

there is nothing wrong with being proud of your European heritage. our ancestors were highly influential in creating the modern world which we all enjoy and benefit from.

If it wasnt for white people, you wouldnt have medicine, cars, airplanes, indoor plumbing, or the internet youre using to post this. You should be grateful.

im not interested in supremacy of any kind.i would prefer equality and respect between all national heritages. i have never enslaved or oppressed ANYONE.! i am white skinned of Nordic decent. my being proud of that is WHITE PRIDE! that is MY celebration,and i am entitled to it.placing me in the category of racist is the same as if i were to say all people with darkly colored skin are ghetto thugs.

“There’s a lot to be proud of in being Irish”

The Irish didn’t have slaves, they were slaves in America as well, look it up, They went through loads of shit with the famine, losing 2 million from 1845 to 1850 and all the crap with the Irish Civil war.

The country still hasn’t recovered its population since The Famine ended, and fought for their independence to be free from the British who to this day still claim a piece of Ireland as their own.

Typical idiocy with crappy attempts at rationalization. So not surprising that “Black Power” is about empowerment but “White Power” is about evil racism. And the electoral college is a remnant of that? In what world? You can have pride in being white without seeking to have any power or control over others.

I do and it’s tragic that the author thinks otherwise.

Sorry to burst your bubble but whites aren’t the only people who have enslaved and committed genocide. There is plenty of slavery and genocide being commited by nonwhites in Africa and the Middle East and India. In fact it’s still happening there. Slavery was started by non-whites and it is still happening in non-white countries. The first slaveowner in America was a black man. Guess who was the first race to end slavery? It was the white people. Yes, white people led the way to abolish slavery worldwide, beginning in England. So your assertion that whites can’t have pride because of some self-hate they’re supposed to have rings hollow at best.

I’m a resident of China, but of European (and Asian) ancestry. My Slavic ancestors were enslaved by Mongolians, they were killed in Mongolian genocide, but the idea to hold all yellow people responsible for the sins of their forefathers is ridiculous. Living in China, I have been spit on, had Han assault me for being the wrong color in “their country”. I am firmly against yellow supremacy, but I would never blame any innocent yellow person for what was done by people who happen to share their skin color, and would never make all yellow people apologize for the crimes committed by others who are the same color.

If you want to put an end to white supremacism and white racism, give the people a healthy way to express their ethnicity and race, or they will seek out unhealthy alternatives If the mainstream only allows white people to express their race in terms of shame and guilt, then the disaffected and lost will look for any acceptance.

Modern white supremacy is a reaction to self-hatred and guilt. Allow white people to actually feel good about themselves (not superior, not better than black, yellow, or brown people, but equal), and racism will wither from starvation.

I feel like you came very close to the mark, but missed very slightly.

Just as the white identity plays into racial power structures in this country, so does every other 17th century racial identity. Prior to the 17th century race referred nationality, and before that shared language. The current landscape of human categorization by “color” is deeply and inherently toxic. It categorizes people and divides them based on the physical characteristics of the body they occupy.

Pride in being categorized into a “color”-based racial system is proudly participating in the very foundation of racial oppression in the modern day.

Wait are you not in America, reaping benefits , due to what people in the past have done. Be it so you can’t change the past , whites did not create slavery , the Irish were treated the more inhumane than another people. They’re not crying about it , they rose above. So should you. Stop pushing the divide every race has plenty to be proud of, I will not be shamed , nor should you.

Quite naive, if I can’t be proud of myself , well what is the point of living, regardless of race we should be focused on our surroundings and not our colours, you get one chance to be human and to live your life with the same old generalised views, it would be straight up non sense to not be more accepting, reading this guys BS annoys me, and it just proves how he needs to focus his own insucurities upon others, peace man and grow up, don’t you think white people already feel the heat from everyone already??

Actually, no, I don’t think white people feel the “heat” whatever that is, from everybody already, or at least, I’m going to suggest that the “heat” is relative to the cool of segregated pools, or the relative shade of having white citizenship rights protected against that of those not white for, oh, a few hundred years.

I never said you can’t be proud of yourself, in fact I think I said that those of European heritage should be proud of their histories as peoples, but “white” is distinct from that. Certainly, if your pride in your personal accomplishments must be tied to white, that suggests a racial connection, doesn’t it? As in, that if you’re an accomplished person, those accomplishments accrue to “white” and not to you, which seems a shame.

“White” homogenizes the remarkable heritage of European peoples into a single history – that of the white “race” in America, since “white” obviously means something different in Europe. And that reduces it to the relation of white people to everyone raced not white.

“White” is just made up as a justification for slavery, while “German,” for instance, predates slavery, and, in the American context, is denigrated by slavery because Germans are a lot more than just slaveholders. I thought I was inviting people to embrace that, and not “white,” the racial category created in order to justify “black” as the other, and therefore eligible for slavery.

But, if you want to have your entire heritage reduced to “white,” that’s up to you. I prefer not to have my entire heritage reduced to a false, stereotyped category like “Asian,” that most people in Asia don’t even know anything about. But that’s just me. I tend not to want to identify with groups in general because they all seem so arbitrary, especially racial groups.

You need to figure out what works for you. If you want an identity forged as the opposite of “slave,” I’m not going to argue against it. I’m just going to suggest you might be much more than that, and invite you to reach for that something more, including your personal accomplishments apart from “white” people’s accomplishments, unless you’re saying something about being white is the basis of your accomplishments, which is either a belief in white racial supremacy or just a justification for my argument to begin with.

Thanks for the comment!

Hey thanks for this article man. Its dumb but that European paragraph actually resolved some stuff in my head and might be something I take a look at. Seriously thanks for that.

I know its stupid, but I think some of us think its cool when we see others want to connect with their culture; but instead of just legitimately taking the time to research our own, get aggressive and attack a movement that has to do with more than just connecting with your heritage. Honestly I had trouble getting it at first to; I thought it was just a cultural connection thing (I didn’t do this lash out shit just thought it was cool) but now I have a little different perspective. I mean I cant get it, but you know what I mean.

And most of us have this nagging feeling in our heads that our ancestors did some screwed up stuff. Not because of anyone telling us, more because we live in a country we want to work and love but uh…. yeah there were people here before us. Not hard to put two and two together.

Nothing compared to other shit I would probably internalize being anything besides a majority, but honestly think thats the nail on the dumb white people thing. “I want to connect with my heritage” + “wait white people did fucked up shit” + “an assholish personality” = “all of this”. They dont put that third piece together or realize the difference between the reactionary black pride movement and looking into your ancestors in Nigeria or Mali.

Either that or their just assholes.

Also not looking for a cookie like the other guy said. Just wanted to let you know that some of us actually read these types of articles seeking perspective and not to go WWIII on someone they dont know. Thanks for spreading the good info man.

And my fellow white people, why the hell did you come on here if you were get offensive about it? I mean you either follow this page or googled for this type of article? You sought this page out…. to shut it down?

Can you use some of that energy on like, actual to attack racist sites instead like neonazi sites? Not on someone whose taking the time to explain issues to you to bridge that perspective gap and show you the other side of the coin?

You could use that energy to spread adoption or disease statistics or something else productive. Youre making humanity look bad.

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