White identity is the objective or subjective state of perceiving oneself as a white person and as relating to being white. White identity has been researched in data and polling, historically and in social sciences. There are however polarized positions in media and academia as to whether a positive white racial identity which does not diminish other racial groups is plausible or achievable in the Western world's political climate.[citation needed]


Historian David Roediger has outlined how works, beginning in the 1980s, from writers such as James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, began explicitly discussing "white identity's intricacies and costs".[1] In 1999, La Salle University's Charles A. Gallagher proposed that perceptions of a racial double standard were creating a "foundation for a white identity based on the belief that whites are now under siege".[2] Two decades later, political activist Leah Greenberg referred to a "white identity grievance movement".[3]

A 2016 New York Times piece, describing "a crisis of white identity", analyzed some of the complex political, economic and cultural interconnected factors involved with it:

The struggle for white identity is not just a political problem; it is about the "deep story" of feeling stuck while others move forward. There will not likely be a return to the whiteness of social dominance and exclusive national identity. Immigration cannot be halted without damaging Western nations' economies; immigrants who have already arrived cannot be expelled en masse without causing social and moral damage. And the other groups who seem to be "cutting in line" are in fact getting a chance at progress that was long denied them.[4]

In April 2019, AP covered activist Rashad Robinson's suggestion that 2020's Democratic Party candidates needed to do more than address white identity, by transforming privilege into action that tackled inequality.[5] Defensiveness, or white fragility, have been described as a way of constructing a "blameless white identity".[6]

In 2020, Julia Ebner, a terrorism and extremism researcher, outlined how the subsiding of alternative identities in individuals can cause white identity to become an "all-embracing" centralized medium for interaction in the world.[7]

Study of the concept

Main article: Study of white identity

The study of white identity began in earnest as the field of modern whiteness studies became established in universities, and within academic research during the mid-1990s. The work of Ruth Frankenberg, among other significant concepts, considered the relationship between whiteness and white identity and attempted to intellectually "disengtangle each from the other".[8] In 2001, sociologist Howard Winant proposed how deconstructionist methodology, as opposed to abolitionist, could help re-examine white identity and its association to whiteness.[9]

Trump presidency and Republican Party

See also: White identity politics

Further information: White backlash § United States, and Democratic backsliding § United States

Since the mid-2010s, sections of media in the United States have increasingly associated white identity with the emergence of Donald Trump's presidency.[10][11] The Guardian has reported on the 2016 appointment of Steve Bannon in the Trump administration, in the context of his website being linked with an aim to preserve a white identity.[12]

In a party-specific analysis, Jamil Smith, writing in Rolling Stone, has suggested that under Trump's leadership, "Republicanism is now inseparable from this corrosive notion of white identity."[13] In 2019, historian Nell Painter stated that the Republican Party had been committed to white identity for decades, and since its Southern strategy.[14]


In March 2019, the New Zealand Christchurch terrorist attack shooter had named the election of American president Donald Trump in 2016 "as a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose".[15][16]

In June 2019, CNN reported how calls by the identitarian movement to celebrate white identity, were often accompanied by the incitement of violence against non-white peoples.[17] Brian Levin, professor at California State University, San Bernardino, has described the promotion of white identity and anti-immigration stance as a repackaging of white supremacy.[18] Academic Eddie Glaude has similarly proposed that any expression of white identity is a form of racial supremacism.[19]

Academic research

Professor Rita Hardiman's 1982 White Identity Development was conducted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Described as a "process oriented model for describing the racial consciousness of white Americans", the study was a forerunner for later process and data-led models.[20]

In 1990, the White Racial Identity Development by Janet E. Helms explored the perceptions and self-identification of white people.[21] Helms has been credited as developing one of the earliest models which profiles a non-racist progression to white identity.[22] In 1996, psychologists James Jones and Robert T. Carter also researched and produced guidance on the psychological steps involved with achieving "an authentically nonracist white identity".[23]

Polling conducted by Democracy Fund in 2016, 2017 and 2018 found that 9 percent of church-attending Donald Trump voters described their white identity as "extremely important to them", whereas up to 26 percent, who did not attend church at all, reported the same.[24] Political scientist Ashley Jardina's research has disclosed that around 40 percent of whites in America acknowledge some degree of white identity.[19]

Indiana University's political scientist Christopher D. DeSante in 2019 developed How Racial Empathy Moderates White Identity and Racial Resentment. The model, which was analyzed by Thomas B. Edsall, is designed to gauge white identity in the contexts of resentment and empathy for non-whites.[25]

See also


  1. ^ Claudia Rankine (July 17, 2019). "I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Abby L. Ferber (1999). "No Final Solutions". White Man Falling: Race, Gender, and White Supremacy. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 147. ISBN 978-0847690268. "The perception that a racial double standard exists on campus is commonplace ... [and] provides[s] the foundation for a white identity based on the belief that whites are now under siege".)
  3. ^ David Smith (December 21, 2019). "The decade that shook America". The Guardian. .
  4. ^ Amanda Taub (November 1, 2016). "Behind 2016's Turmoil, a Crisis of White Identity". The New York Times.
  5. ^ Errin Haines Whack (July 26, 2019). "White presidential hopefuls face 'woke litmus test' on race". The Village Voice.
  6. ^ Micaela DiLeonardo (July 26, 2019). "The White Issue: White Fright". The Village Voice. Defense is more complicated and interesting. White Americans across class, gender, and region try to define themselves out of the oppressor class, to construct a blameless white identity.
  7. ^ Julia Ebner (February 10, 2020). "Swiping right into the alt-right online dating world". The Sydney Morning Herald. As other layers of their identity are erased, their white identity becomes all-embracing and serves as the single most important point of connection with other people.
  8. ^ Ravi Malhotra; Morgan Rowe (2007). "Rowe and Malhotra". In Leda M. Cooks; Jennifer S. Simpson (eds.). Whiteness, Pedagogy, Performance: Dis/Placing Race. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0739114629. Whiteness studies effectively demonstrate the connection between white identities and whiteness as a social construction, they do not reveal how we can disentangle each from the other ... The slippage between white identity and whiteness that occurs in Frankenberg's text is widespread, particularly within the foundational texts within the field of whiteness studies.
  9. ^ Howard Winant (2001). "Howard Winant". In Birgit Brander Rasmussen; Irene J. Nexica; Eric Klinenberg; Matt Wray (eds.). The Making and Unmaking of Whiteness. Duke University Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0822327400. I understand deconstructing whiteness to mean rethinking and changing ideas about white identity and reorienting the practices consequent upon these ideas.
  10. ^ Dylan Scott (February 5, 2020). "Trump undercut his message to black voters with celebrations of racism and white history". Vox Media. That's why we will continue to hear overtures like those Trump made at his State of the Union speech. But he also seems likely to continue reminding voters, of all types, how much of his political movement is founded explicitly in white identity.
  11. ^ Adam Serwer (June 4, 2019). "A White Man's Republic, If They Can Keep It". The Atlantic. Since the rise of Trump, the American right has been offered a stark choice between the democratic ideals it has long claimed to believe in, and the sectarian ethno-nationalism of the president, which privileges white identity and right-wing Christianity over all.
  12. ^ Amanda Holpuch (December 4, 2019). "Stephen Miller: why is Trump's white nationalist aide untouchable?". The Guardian. In 2016, Trump appointed Steve Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart News, as White House chief strategist, despite Bannon's website being associated with efforts to preserve white identity and defend western values.
  13. ^ Jamil Smith (March 18, 2019). "White Supremacy Hurts White People". Rolling Stone.
  14. ^ Nell Painter (July 20, 2019). "Trump revives the idea of a 'white man's country', America's original sin". The Guardian. Even before Trump, the Republican party had been waging a southern strategy for more than half a century, ever more firmly committed to its white identity.
  15. ^ Michael Burke (March 17, 2019). "US ambassador: No credibility to New Zealand attack suspect citing Trump as symbol of 'white identity'". The Hill.
  16. ^ "New Zealand mosque attacks suspect praised Trump in manifesto". Al Jazeera. March 16, 2019.
  17. ^ Mallory Simon; Sara Sidner (March 16, 2019). "White supremacists increase recruiting efforts at colleges, ADL says". CNN. On websites, social media and sometimes fliers, calls to support one's white identity are often followed with messages urging attacks on anyone who is not white.
  18. ^ Jack Healy (August 18, 2019). "Amid the Kale and Corn, Fears of White Supremacy at the Farmers' Market". The New York Times. Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, described the European-rooted identitarian movement as repackaged white supremacy that opposed immigration and promoted white identity.
  19. ^ a b "How Donald Trump Played the (White) Race Card and Reshaped the Democratic Party". Newsweek. 2019-03-06. Eddie Glaude, a Princeton University religion professor who writes about race and politics, is less generous; he considers any level of white identity as racism by another name.
  20. ^ Christine Clark; James O'Donnell (1999). Becoming and Unbecoming White: Owning and Disowning a Racial Identity. Praeger Publishing. p. 69. ISBN 978-0897896214. During the past fifteen years, a number of models have been developed that trace White identity as a developmental process (e.g., Hardiman, 1982; Helms, 1990b).)
  21. ^ Robert T. Carter (1995). "White Racial Identity". The Influence of Race and Racial Identity in Psychotherapy: Toward a Racially Inclusive Model. John Wiley & Sons. p. 101. ISBN 978-0471245339. Helms (1990) states that "the development of White identity in the United States is closely intertwined with the development and progress of racism in this country.)
  22. ^ M. Carolyn Clark (2000). "An Update on Adult Development Theory". An Update on Adult Development Theory: New Ways of Thinking About the Life Course: New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. Jossey-Bass. p. 42. ISBN 978-0787911713. Helms instead refers to the status of white racial identity. Her first three statuses outline how a white individual progress away from a racist frame before moving to the next three statuses where they discover a nonracist white identity.)
  23. ^ Raymond G. Hunt; Benjamin Paul Bowser (1996). "Introduction to the Second Edition". Impacts of Racism on White Americans. SAGE Publications. p. xxiv. ISBN 978-0803949942. James M. Jones teams up with Robert T. Carter to up-date the definition of the three levels of racism ... reviewing new theory and research on white identity and describing the psychological stages one goes through to achieve an authentically nonracist white identity.)
  24. ^ Survey Data Driving the Insights, United States: Democracy Fund, 2016
  25. ^ How Racial Empathy Moderates White Identity and Racial Resentment, Indiana University, 2019