When division and violence continue to hit record levels, all options to fight back against this must be tried.
What if there was a Whites Organization dedicated to helping people of all races and identities? That lead the fight against racism. That served as a place to help White people better themselves. Then built an identity for White people on the good White people have done for the world, to inspire them to actualize this better self? What would this mean to society? But most importantly… should it exist?
This project is prompted by the writeup we at Positive Identity did recently titled Something Must be Done. In wake of the Buffalo Massacre of 10 Black Americans, and now with the Highland Park shooter who cased synagogues and shot up a mainly Jewish town, our approach to White people and Whiteness calls for new, innovative, and transformational change.
Just last year, according to Gallup, race relations in America fell to a new low with 57% of Americans saying things were bad or somewhat bad. This applies to people of all races which means People of Color (POC) and White people both viewed their relationship with each other with record negative perception. Further, from 2001-2015, on average about 20% of Americans were concerned about race relations, and that has now spiked to between 41%-48%. Again showing people of all races were deeply concerned with what was happening to each other. Hate crimes have now risen to their highest number in more than a decade. Lastly, law enforcement officials have labeled White Supremacists as the biggest domestic terror threat in America among all possible threats.
To put it plainly, the current approach to race, with the aim of defeating racism and hate to create a positive racial society, isn’t working.
Positive Identity was conceived in 2017 when the modern collapse of race relations was occurring according to polling from Monmouth, Gallup, and NBC/WSJ. Americans had grown pessimistic about race relations and Positive Identity (TPI) was launched as a way to counteract the division. The idea was to create content showing people of all races in a positive light. As the American Psychological Association states, “The way we perceive ourselves in relation to the rest of the world influences our behaviors and our beliefs,” and is the foundation of modern psychology. Bias research shows that media shapes how we perceive people of different races and thus our actions toward them. Knowing this, TPI’s goal was to make media to create positive perception for people of all races which leads to positive action for all. For people who are Asian, Black, Hispanic, Mixed, Native, White, and Beyond, positive identity, positive perception, and positive reinforcement is the goal.
While the goal of TPI was to work for people of all races, our mission has changed. Right now we’re seeing an explosion in growth from White Supremacist groups. On top of this, the rise of Stochastic Terrorism from these groups has led to new forms of violence that the current system isn’t equipped to deal with. Which has led to an even further collapse of race relations. Which prompted our call by the Something Must be Done article to bring in a new, radical and unorthodox approach to Whiteness, White people, and how we treat race.
Something must be done. A wide variety of solutions have been tried to stop these destructive White groups but the current direction shows that their growth continues unabated. With the violence we have, and the direction we’re going, we know the current path isn’t working. New ideas and innovative approaches must be tried.
Right now the backstory is that White people in America and around the world, they are seeing themselves as a race for the first time and developing a racial identity because of it. Yet the ‘White’ organizations that exist to address this identity and what it means are the destructive White Supremacist groups that seek to destroy those around them. From the KKK, Neo-Nazis, various White Supremacist groups, and such, these organizations seek to martial Whiteness and White people together to engage in racist or destructive behavior. For them, being White means being under siege, that you are hated, and that your identity is based on how you can conquer and defeat those who are not White. These Whites organizations exist from the framework that White people are seen by society as a negative and they have an opponent they view in a negative light. Thus these non-White targets must be defeated, damaged, or destroyed in some way. White Supremacists holding the belief that they are viewed negatively, and viewing non-Whites negatively, is the foundation for their relationship with the world which defines their actions. Currently, they are the defining organizations that represent Whiteness and White people.
People become the identity they see themselves as, as shown by Social Identity Theory. Social Identity Theory in short “refers to the ways that people’s self-concepts are based on their membership in social groups. Examples include sports teams, religions, nationalities, occupations, sexual orientation, ethnic groups, and gender.” You become what you see yourself as.
So if White people only see their identity from the framing of a destructive relationship with the world, they will gravitate to that. Being White is being what White Supremacists tell them to be. Thus they will become captured by their White Supremacist ideas and worldview. Human beings are irrational as we can see from the world around us. Committing mass murder and violence is the height of irrationality and this irrationality is growing at a deadly rate.
The approach that makes sense is to punish these people and anyone who creates a racial environment of racism, hatred, and discord. That does work and we’ll still continue to do it. But negative reinforcement has its limits.
Negative Reinforcement isn’t always the best way to deal with challenging behavior. There is also a high price of negative reinforcement. Punishment doesn’t work. Further, “Negative reinforcement can be effective, but scholars generally agree that it must be used sparingly, and is best for reinforcing short-term behaviors.”
To bring it all together, “people who are punished may become defiant and still perform the behavior, but only when they know they will not get caught doing it“.
Further, when anyone is exposed to something that stresses them or frightens them, the fundamental human psychological response of Fight or Flight kicks in. If people are exclusively told about the bad things they have done, that is threatening to them. So they either shut down and avoid the situation… or they could radicalize and fight back. This applies to everyone.
It’s no surprise that our metrics for race relations have gone the way they have. People are fundamentally drawn to things that make them feel good and avoid things that make them feel bad. So what will happen if White people, when they acknowledge their identity have to have a negative self-perception because of it, seeing themselves as only associated with destructive behavior? The answer is they will either avoid the ideas, become defiant, or even potentially radicalized. Lastly, are people more likely to join groups or movements that make them feel bad about who they are, or do they join groups that make them feel good about who they are?
At Positive Identity we’ve spearheaded a different model, which is positive reinforcement. Which works.
Positive reinforcement works exceedingly better and faster than punishment. Positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful and effective tools. Positive reinforcement increased the frequency of the wanted behavior.
People are drawn to what makes them feel good and ideally, they’re rewarded by society because of it. While the concept of Positive Identity is 5 years old, it’s still relatively new. As mentioned above, because of the direction of the current climate, Whiteness is now a focus. And our ideas will be what inspires what we do next.
So… what if we created a Whites Organization, for Good? That did the opposite of what these negative Whites groups have done and sought to build up and create instead of tear down and destroy. Which instead recognizes and celebrates the relationship between POC and Whites. That creates a positive racial self-perception based on the good things White people have done for the world. Which works to have White people better themselves in that positive way. That White people could instead connect their identity to and be a part of. To ultimately help people of all identities like we would want anyone to do.
People act the way they see themselves as. We know that from Social Identity Theory yet even further, Self-Perception Theory comes into play. “Self-perception theory posits that people determine their attitudes and preferences by interpreting the meaning of their own behavior.” Essentially that means that your behavior changes your attitude, not the other way around. This was tested on terrorists where the authors looked at how “the new converts may form increasingly radical attitudes to be consistent with their increasingly radical behavior. Self-perception theory, then, has strong ties to social identity and social influence in this scenario.”
When someone of your own identity group, of a thinking based on your identity, engages in a certain behavior, your attitude begins to mirror that. For many White people in America, The UK, France, Australia, and around the globe, they see what Whiteness means and are pulled into that attitude and behavior. Then conform to it because they want to be perceived as normal by the group.
There are a number of identity-based organizations that exist for Black, Jewish, and Muslim identity groups that take into account Self Identity Theory and Self-Perception Theory in a meaningful way. These groups seek to highlight members of their community, and their positive contributions to society and explicitly point out their identity as individuals and as a group. The understanding being, that you become what you see yourself as. And they have been very successful in this work.
For Positive Identity, we have focused on this innately. We want people to see themselves at their best, in a positive and constructive relationship with people of all races because we know how powerful and constructive that can be. But considering what we’ve raised with White people and Whiteness, we are now expanding our work. Our mission now is to also create a positive identity for Whiteness and White people to see themselves and others in a positive light to create constructive action for all.
How would this manifest itself?
The first stage is to frame Whiteness around the positive contributions White people have made to humanity and the world. Of course, the initial response might be that this already happens, that textbooks and media around the globe show White people in a positive light. The counter-argument is that these people don’t explicitly have their White Identity attached to these contributions. That they’re seen as individual people, separated away from their Whiteness. Again thinking about how Black, Jewish, and Muslim organizations in America and around the world have done it, we would follow the same model. There are a number of White groups and White majority countries that have been agents of change, progress, and advancement of people of all identities. This must be featured and the core of our work.
Another element would be to spotlight and celebrate White people around the world who have helped all people. Role Models are a major part of socialization where “individuals compare themselves with reference groups of people who occupy the social role to which the individual aspires” People want to be like those that society looks up to and we should do just that. Also, this approach would honor and laud POC who have helped White people in the past and present. This would foster positive perception of POC which would lead to constructive action toward POC communities, build trust and lead to positive unity and action for all.
This Positive Whiteness approach would also provide a place for self-improvement for White people, so they can work to better themselves to be able to emulate those inspiring White individuals or groups. It’s one thing to say “look at this great person, just be like that!” Yet it’s a much more effective strategy to create a space where White people can work together for short and long-term individual and group self-improvement. Then take that improvement to better all of humanity.
But the two most important parts that this must encompass are Philanthropic Charity and Fighting Racism.
The fighting racism part is obvious as negative Whiteness exists in the global White community, which manifests itself through Neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, and so forth. They present not just a threat to POC, but to White people as well. Speaking from just a moral perspective, helping people of all races is paramount if we want to someday achieve that utopian and ideal society. There is no other path except for this. Any moral person would agree that no person should live in fear of another and our POC friends deserve that life. Everyone deserves that ideal life. White society as a whole must be aggressive and assertive to turn these negative Whites away from their destructive and hateful ideologies. Or must be a part of destroying these evil groups if need be.
We must also be reminded that these White Supremacists are a danger to White people as well. Their extremism, which is clothed in the coat of Whiteness, causes POC around the globe to mistrust and fear the White community. Think about how you would treat or act to an individual or group that you mistrust. Or fear. This opens the door for damage to be done in turn to White people. Further, these negative Whites organizations exist in an exclusive sense, often excluding other White people from Whiteness. They will concoct reasons why some people aren’t White, and then turn their destructive behavior on them as they would do to POC. In every sense, negative Whites and White Supremacists are a threat to everyone and must be guided away from this path through all methods possible. Or fought at every turn.
The philanthropic charity part is crucial and a key pillar. Sure we can have White people become their best, but that best must turn into action that helps people of all identities and backgrounds. Whether it’s financial giving, taking action, volunteerism, civic work, and so forth, an outreach approach must be baked into the White Identity. This creates the pathway for us to become our ideal selves by working toward the improvement and advancement of disfranchised groups and communities. To be a positive White is to give, help and aid all those who are less fortunate. No matter what your race or identity is, our nature should be to have a life dedicated to gaining knowledge, understanding the moral questions of our time, and then taking material action to solve our human malaise to build a more perfect world. Charity for a Positive White Identity is key.
To manifest this we must create a Whites organization dedicated to good, celebrating, and approving of the positive things White people have done as a society. Then embodying those ideals. Again something like this has been done. Black Americans have many organizations with a history of sticking up for those that are fighting to be free around the world. Jewish people and their organizations support “Tikkun Olam” which means to perform acts of kindness to repair the world. We see Muslim organizations speak out again radicalism in their communities and take action to help the less fortunate. Then they celebrate their positive accomplishments as a community and seek to emulate those inspiring people. White people need to create a system of thinking that does what our friends in the Jewish, Black, and Muslim communities do to improve the world. We need a Whites organization that takes action to defeat hate and concurrently provide support to those that are less fortunate. A positive Whiteness organization would exist in the world just like them. In totality, this would be the first modern Whites organization.
There is so much good that exists in the world. So much joy to be had. Laughter to bring out and friendships to create. Our human capacity to help each other continues to amaze us in wonderful ways and our want for peace is a real part of ourselves. This is who we are and yet also who we need to be.
Our mentality also has to be that the actions we take aren’t win-lose for society, but that we engage only in ways for everyone to win. So much of our division are people thinking in this mindset. If people think they will lose, they won’t engage and will most likely fight back. But if people know that you are working toward their success and well-being, no matter who they are, they will engage. That is what our ideal society is to be, for everyone to win.
It’s not enough to just talk about this and then hope some people latch onto the idea. No, a sustained group dedicated to actualizing this concept must occur for us to measure this approach. It must be tried. Either it will work and we will have saved lives and helped society in potentially enormous ways, or it doesn’t work and we continue to try other methods.
Our racial climate continues to deteriorate and partisan division threatens to entrench racial separation. The history and reality of the world is filled with different ethnic groups having long running and many times unsolvable division that leads to societal alienation, dehumanization, destruction and bloodshed. The conflict and violence we already have is unacceptable. Anything worse should be unthinkable to the good people of this world. If we’re serious about making that better tomorrow, we must take steps now to rethink how we approach Whiteness and White Identity. The future depends on it.
The Positive Whiteness idea was first conceived of in 2017 in response to the racial circumstances and social climate in America and globally.
The 2016 Election had just occurred which dramatically changed the American landscape. Americans and people around the world were undergoing significant change in modern racial thought and how they perceived each other and themselves.
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, the White Nationalist movement experienced a rapid surge of engagement. From the widely circulated video of Richard Spencer and his crowd giving neo-nazi salutes and cheers for White Nationalism in November 2016, to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in later 2017, the White Supremacist and Nationalists movements were gaining rapid growth.
Concurrently statistics for race relations suffered record deterioration in 2017. Americans had grown pessimistic on race relations, 64% of Americans saying that race relations are a major problem, and Americans of all backgrounds see race relations as a major problem. The growing physical and psychological threat of these extremist Whites organizations was a major element that was causing this societal deterioration in regard to race relations.
Positive Whiteness was initially conceived as a Whites Organization that could counter these destructive Whites organizations as outlined in the What is Positive Whiteness article. An organization that could create an alternative White Identity and Whiteness that these pernicious White groups and individuals were peddling. An organization that wasn’t a negative to society, but a positive one. A Whites organization for Good.
The Positive Whiteness project was eventually set aside to focus on Positive Identity, which was both a more all-encompassing, ideal and utopian approach for race relations. By using media and social media, an environment could be created where a positive identity could occur for not just one group but for people of all races. Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latin, Mixed, Native, and White. This inclusive all-embracing process was seen as a defining approach for an “all uplifting” system that could serve as a unifying and galvanizing force for society at large while also addressing the major racial issues of the time in a broad-based manner. Further, by catering to people of all identities it would have the opportunity for larger scale effectiveness and is the more ideal approach for positive racial perception, approach, and action. Lastly, how Positive Identity works is a model for how a diverse society and world as a whole should work. See people of all races in a positive light, see yourself in a positive and constructive light, and then take action from that perspective.
However, with race relations continuing to hit record lows, violence hitting record highs, and the surge of White identity in the global White community, the Positive Identity mission has expanded and the Positive Whiteness idea is being conceptualized.
As outlined in the Why Positive Whiteness article, there is now a central focus on Whiteness, White people, and White Identity. Positive Identity is how society should run, and Positive Whiteness will work to get people there.
Positive Whiteness was created for a wide variety of reasons. This section below will outline further specifics of how Positive Whiteness can work.
Positive Whiteness was created for a variety of functionality purposes that are a part of the Charitable, Positive White Identity, Fighting Racism, and Media Creation but also beyond those sections as well. This section outlines those Elements.
1. Change perception and self-perception of Whiteness/White people through philanthropy and charity.
In February of 2017 a Jewish Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery just outside of St. Louis, Missouri was vandalized in an anti-semitic hate incident that sparking national outcry and condemnation. The Muslim organizations of MPower Change and Celebrate Mercy’s in response raised over $100k in donations for the repair of the cemetery which was widely circulated on social media and covered in the news.
This act of goodwill served as a major catalyst for building goodwill between the Muslim and Jewish communities and also served as a major highlight for the Muslim community at large. Further, it created a direction in the Muslim community that their work was one of aiding a distressed community.
For Positive Whiteness, a part of its conceptual identity came from this very act of goodwill. What MPower and Mercy’s did serves as an example of an identity group donating not just charity to aid a victimized group, but also how the act itself from an identity group can serve as a way to build positive relations and perceptions between both groups.
For Positive Whiteness, it’s not just charity itself that is part of the equation, but also building and repairing goodwill, trust, and positive perception between Positive Whiteness as a “Whites Organization” and the groups that are being aided by the charity. There is ‘charity’ and there is sending a message. Positive Whiteness will serve as a charitable organization in all of those forms. Also, Positive Whiteness will be sending a message.
2. Responding to the appeal to redefine White Identity to a constructive state.
In the aftermath of the Buffalo Massacre by White Supremacist Payton S. Gendron, a post was shared around Instagram by user @IJeomaoluo responding to the current state of White Identity.
The post was widely circulated and received an overwhelming amount of responses of support and agreement.
While much of our Why Positive Whiteness and Build Positive Identity section covers our work on this front, Positive Whiteness was created also in response to this. With the explosion of hate crimes and related stochastic terrorism and platforms where hate and destructive White identities can flourish, a response to create a White identity defined by a positive and constructive history must occur to serve as an alternative to draw these men and people away. An alternative that can give them purpose and the power to actualize that purpose.
3. Be a voice against hate and terrorism in the White community.
In the aftermath of 9/11, many Muslim organizations spoke out to denounce the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
By having leaders of an identity group denounce destructive behavior in their own community, they were able to accomplish several goals.
The first is that in the post-9/11 American society, Islamic terrorism that could have followed remained largely nonexistent. By having the leadership of the Muslim community speak out against 9/11, it created a cultural push in the community as a whole to isolate and suffocate extremism that would exist within it.
Further, it sent a message to the larger American and global community that these extremists did not speak for the community as a whole, but that they were radicals who stood against the larger Islamic community’s values.
Positive Whiteness aims to do the same against White Supremacist and racist terror in America and globally. By being a force to speak out against hate and violence that is used by malicious Whites organizations and racially motivated individuals, it creates a cultural force to suppress and isolate these destructive forces. In addition, it also allows for an orienting element to occur between the White community and People of Color by blunting any material division or alienation that could occur.
4. Serve as an organizational conduit for interracial discussion between People of Color and White people.
Positive Whiteness serves as a conduit for the racial discussion between different racial organizations and the White Community as a whole.
Much of the racial discussion occurs in an extremely imbalanced state. Often People of Color from different racial communities will have conversation points, grievances or even just points of order that they want to discuss with the White Community as a whole. When they air these thoughts… who are they speaking to? Currently, nothing and no one.
This creates a disorienting and volatile environment for all involved. It creates the perception for People of Color that their voice isn’t heard which can lead to alienation, disaffection, and even radicalization. For White people, it creates an atmosphere of confusion, incohesive reactions, and an inability to create dialogue and response. Alone, having at least an ability to intake messaging from People of Color, allows for better direction, alignment, and integration to occur.
5. Answering the call to take action as White people.
Lastly, in our modern racial discussion, there have been calls for the White People of the White Community to engage.
Not as individuals on your own or raceless people who don’t identify with anything. But to engage as White People.
The call has been answered. Today, we can now say that White People are doing something.