Seeing Your Whole Self in Barnor Hesse's 8 White Identities

I've seen this image circulate quite a bit in my social media feeds:

A graph of the 8 white identities, going from white supremacist to white abolitionist. Full text available later in the post.
Barnor Hess via The Slow Factory

Just like my understanding of the happiness-hacking social media post shifted the more I saw it, so has this one.

The first few times I encountered it, I read through the categories, trying to figure out (or confirm) what category I belong in.

I no longer think that's the most helpful way to use this chart, as a white person.

I have realized that instead of trying to stuff my whole self into one box (the most advanced one I can honestly claim, obviously), it may be more helpful to ask myself in which contexts I fall into which categories.

If I look at each identity, even the ones I am loathed to belong to, and honestly ask myself if there are any contexts or situations where this describes me, then I can begin to actually do something about them.

While ignoring the more regressive parts of myself might allow me to feel a bit more comfortable about my position in the world, it also means I will continue to perpetuate harm, and the whole point here is to stop with the harm. (Or one of the whole points, anyways.)

People are not consistent enough to always fit one label. We are wavy and fickle and we are all a little bit hypocritical. We may have super-strong convictions and then go back to our hometown or enter a new workplace where we aren't sure of our place or even just be really tired and find ourselves breaking them.

It doesn't mean we are terrible people, it just means we need to find ways to bolster and support the person we want to be. But we can't do that if we pretend we never falter.

[IMAGE TEXT: 8 White Identities by Barnor Hesse

White Supremacist: Clearly marked white society that preserves, names, and values white superiority.

White Voyeurism: Wouldn't challenge white supremacist; desires non-whiteness because it's interesting, pleasurable; seeks to control the consumption and appropriation of non-whiteness; fascination with culture (eg: consuming Black culture without the burden of Blackness)

White Privilege: May critique supremacy, but a deep investment in questions of fairness/equality under the normalization of whiteness and the white rule; sworn goal of "diversity"

White Benefit: Sympathetic to a set of issues, but only privately; won't speak/act in solidarity publicly because benefitting through whiteness in public (some POC are in this category as well)

White Confessional: Some exposure to whiteness takes place, but as a way of being accountable to POC after; seek validation from POC

White Critical: Take on board critique of whiteness and invest in exposing/marking the white regime; refuses to be complicit with the regime; whiteness speaking back to whiteness

White Traitor: Actively refuses complicity; names what's going on; intention is to subvert white authority and tell the truth at whatever cost; need them to dismantle institutions.

White Abolitionist: Changing institutions, dismantling whiteness, and not allowing whiteness to reassert itself.]

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