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Teaching White Students About Racism: The Search for White Allies and the Restoration of Hope

by Beverly Daniel Tatum - 1994

White students can learn about racism without experiencing guilt that can overpower their desire to learn. Janet Helm's model of white racial identity is used as a framework for helping students abandon racism and define a positive white identity. (Source: ERIC)

Think of a nationally known white person whom you would describe as a racist. If you are like most of the students in my Psychology of Racism classes and the hundreds of workshop participants I address each year, at least one name comes to mind fairly quickly. The names of past and present Klan leaders and conservative southern politicians are usually the first to be mentioned.

Think now of a nationally known white person you would consider to be an antiracist activist, a white man or woman who is clearly identifiable as an ally to people of color in the struggle against racism. Do you find yourself drawing a blank? Perhaps you thought of Viola Liuzzo, James Reeb, or Michael Schwerner, white civil rights workers who were slain during the years of the civil rights movement. If we add the qualifier "still living," who comes to mind? If you have managed to think of someone who fits this description, notice that it probably took significantly longer to come up with an answer to this question than it did to the first.

The fact is there are white people who can be named in this category. You might have remembered Morris Dees, the executive director of the Southern Poverty Law Center and a vigorous anti-Klan litigator. The name of Anne Braden, a long-time civil rights activist, might have come to mind. Perhaps you knew the name of Virginia Foster Durr, a southern white woman who was actively involved in the struggle for civil rights in the South and who is featured in the first episode of the documentary series Eyes on the Prize. Maybe you have heard Bill Bradley, a senator from New Jersey, speak eloquently about issues of racism in our society and thought of him.

Other people might be named, but the point is that the names are typically retrieved very slowly, if at all. I have had the experience of addressing roomfuls of classroom teachers who have been unable to generate a single name without some prompting from me. If well-educated adults interested in teaching about race and racism in their classrooms have trouble identifying contemporary white men and women who have taken a public stand against racism, it is a reasonable assumption that our students will not be able to identify those names either.

Why is this lack of information of concern? As I have discussed elsewhere, one consequence of addressing the issue of racism (and other forms of oppression) in the classroom is the generation of powerful emotional responses in both white students and students of color.[1] White students, in particular, often struggle with strong feelings of guilt when they become aware of the pervasiveness of racism in our society. Even when they feel their own behavior has been nondiscriminatory, they often experience "guilt by association." These feelings are uncomfortable and can lead white students to resist learning about race and racism. And who can blame them? If learning about racism means seeing oneself as an "oppressor," one of the "bad guys," then of course there will be resistance. Few people would actively embrace such a self-definition.

But what alternatives do we offer to white students? This article is intended to explore this question and its implications for teaching about racism, using Helms's model of white racial identity development as a framework for understanding white students' responses.[2] The perspective I bring to this discussion is that of an African-American female college professor who has been teaching and/or leading workshops on racism in predominantly white settings since 1980. The student voices represented in this article come from journal entries written by students enrolled in my course on the psychology of racism.


As Janet Helms explains in her model of white racial identity development, "racial identity development theory concerns the psychological implications of racial group membership, that is belief systems that evolve in reaction to perceived differential racial-group membership."[3] In U.S. society, where racial-group membership is emphasized, it is assumed that the development of a racial identity will occur in some form in everyone. However, the process will unfold in different ways for whites and people of color because of the different social positions they occupy in this society. For whites, there are two major developmental tasks in this process, the abandonment of individual racism and the recognition of and opposition to institutional and cultural racism. Helms writes: "Concurrently, the person must become aware of her or his Whiteness, learn to accept Whiteness as an important part of herself or himself, and to internalize a realistically positive view of what it means to be White."[4] Helms's six-stage model can then be divided into two major phases, the first being the abandonment of racism (a process that begins with the Contact stage and ends with the Reintegration stage). The second phase, defining a positive white identity, begins with the Pseudo-Independent stage and reaches fruition at the Autonomy stage.


The first stage of racial identity for whites (the Contact stage) is a stage at which there is little attention paid to the significance of one's racial group membership. Individuals at this stage of development rarely describe themselves as white. If they have lived, worked, or gone to school in predominantly white settings, they may simply think of themselves as like the majority of those around them. This view is exemplified by the comment one of my white students made when asked to describe herself in terms of her class and ethnic background. She summed up her middle-class, white European background by saying, "I'm just normal." This sense of being part of the racial norm is taken for granted without conscious consideration of the systematically conferred advantages given to whites simply because of their racial group membership.[5]

While they have been influenced by the prevailing societal stereotypes of people of color, there is typically limited awareness of this socialization process. Often individuals at the Contact stage perceive themselves as completely free of prejudice, unaware of their own assumptions about other racial groups. I would describe the majority of the white men and women I have had in my course over the last twelve years as being in this stage of development at the start of the semester.


However, participating in a classroom where the social consequences of racial group membership are explicitly discussed as part of the course content typically propels white students from the first stage to the next, referred to by Helms as the Disintegration Stage.[6] At this stage, white students begin to see how much their lives and the lives of people of color have been affected by racism in our society. The societal inequities they now notice are in direct contradiction to the idea of an American meritocracy, a concept that has typically been an integral part of their earlier socialization. The cognitive dissonance that results is part of the discomfort experienced at this stage. One response to this discomfort is to deny the validity of the information that is being presented to them, or to withdraw from the class psychologically, if not physically.[7] However, if they remain engaged, white students at the disintegration stage typically want to deal with the guilt and other uncomfortable feelings by doing something, by taking action of some sort to interrupt the racism they now see around them. If students have learned (as I hope they have) that racism can take both active forms (e.g., verbal harassment, physical violence, intentional acts of discrimination) and passive forms (e.g., silence in the presence of another's racist remarks, unexamined policies and practices that disproportionately impact people of color, the failure to acknowledge the contributions of people of color), then they recognize that an active response to racism is required to interrupt its perpetuation in our society.

"But what action can I take?" is a common question at this point in their development. Jerri, a white woman from an upper-middle-class family, expressed this sentiment clearly in her journal.

Another thing I realized when I got to college was the privileges attached to being white. My family had brought me up trying to make me aware of other people and their differences--but they never explained the power I had. I do not take advantage of my power--at least I try not to, but it seems inevitable. I feel helpless. There is so much I want to do--to help. What can I do? I do not want to help perpetuate racism, sexism and stereotypes.

Helping students think this question through for themselves is part of our responsibility as educators who have accepted the challenge of teaching about racism. Heightening student awareness about racism without also providing some hope for social change is a prescription for despair. We all have a sphere of influence, some domain in which we exercise some level of power and control. For students, the task may be to identify what their own sphere of influence is (however large or small) and to consider how it might be used to interrupt the cycle of racism.[8]

However, once again, students find that they can think of many more examples of racist behavior than they can think of examples of antiracist behavior. Many white students have experienced their most influential adult role models, their parents, as having been the source of overtly expressed racial prejudices. The following excerpts from the journals of two students illustrate this point:

Today was the first class on racism. . . . Before today I didn't think I was exposed to any form of racism. Well, except for my father. He is about as prejudiced as they come. [Sally, a white female]
It really bothers me that stereotypes exist because it is from them that I originally became uninformed. My grandmother makes all kinds of decisions based on stereotypes--who to hire, who to help out. When I was growing up, the only black people that I knew were adults [household help], but I admired them just as much as any other adult. When I expressed these feelings to my parents, I was always told that the black people that I knew were the exceptions and that the rest of the race were different. I, too, was taught to be afraid. [Barbara, a white Woman]

Others experienced their parents as passively silent on the subject of racism, simply accepting the status quo. As one young man from a very privileged background wrote:

It is easy to simply fade into the woodwork, run with the rest of society, and never have to deal directly with these problems. So many people I know from home . . . have simply accepted what society has taught them with little if any question. My father is a prime example of this. His overriding preaching throughout my childhood dealt with simply accepting reality. [Carl, a white male]

Those white students whose parents actively espoused antiracist values still felt unprepared for addressing racism outside of the family circle, a point highlighted by the following journal entry, written by Annette, a white female college senior;

Talking with other class members, I realized how exceptional my parents were. Not only were they not overtly racist but they also tried to keep society's subtle racism from reaching me. Basically I grew up believing that racism was no longer an issue and all people should be treated as equals. Unfortunately, my parents were not being very realistic as society's racism did begin to reach me. They did not teach me how to support and defend their views once I was interacting in a society without them as a buffer.

How do they learn how to interrupt someone else's racist (or sexist/anti- Semitic/homophobic) joke or challenge someone's stereotype if they have never seen anyone else do it? Despite the lack of examples, many students will begin to speak up about racism to their friends and family members. They often find that their efforts to share their new knowledge and heightened awareness with others are perceived negatively. Alice, a white woman, wrote:

I never realized how much sexism and racism there still is on TV. I don't know if I'll ever be able to watch TV in the same way again. I used to just watch TV shows, laugh at the funny jokes, and not think about sexism or racism. . . . I know my friends and family probably don't think I'm as much fun as I used to be because I can't watch TV without making an issue of how racist and sexist most shows are.

The fear of being alienated from these friends and family members is real, and is part of the social pressure experienced by those at the Disintegration stage of development to back away from this new awareness of racism. The dilemma of noticing racism and yet feeling the societal pressure not to notice, or at least not to speak up, is resolved for some at the Reintegration stage.


At the Reintegration stage, whites may turn to explanations for racism that put the burden of change on those who are the targets of racism.

Race-related negative conditions are assumed to result from Black people's inferior social, moral, and intellectual qualities, and thus it is not unusual to find persons in the Reintegration stage selectively attending to and/or reinterpreting information to conform to societal stereotypes of Black people.[9]

As Wellman clearly illustrates, such thinking allows the white individual to relieve himself or herself of guilt as well as responsibility for working toward social change.[10]

Because the pressure to ignore racism and to accept the socially sanctioned stereotypes is so great, unless we talk about the interpersonal challenges that often confront students at this point in their understanding, we place them at risk of getting stuck in the Reintegration stage. Identifying these challenges for students does not solve the problem for them, but it does help them to recognize the source of some of the discomfort they may experience. It is hoped that this recognition allows them to respond in ways that will allow for continued growth in their own racial identity development.


Continued, ongoing dialogue about race-related issues is one way to promote such growth. As the students' understanding of the complexity of institutional racism in our society deepens, the likelihood of resorting to "blame-the-victim" explanations lessens. Such deepening awareness is associated with the commitment to unlearn one's own racism, and marks the movement into the next stage of development in Helms's model, the Pseudo-independent stage. This stage marks the beginning of the second phase of this developmental process, creating a positive definition of whiteness.

At the Pseudo-independent stage, the individual may try to deal with some of the social pressures experienced at earlier stages by actively seeking friendships with those who share an antiracist perspective. In particular, some white students may want to distance themselves psychologically from their own racial group by seeking out relationships with people of color. An example of this can be seen in the following journal entry:

One of the major and probably most difficult steps in identity development is obtaining or finding the consciousness of what it means to be white. I definitely remember many a time that I wished I was not white, ashamed of what I and others have done to the other racial groups in the world. . . . I wanted to pretend I was black, live with them, celebrate their culture, and deny my whiteness completely. Basically, I wanted to escape the responsibility that came with identifying myself as "white." [Lisa, a white female]

How successful these efforts to escape whiteness via people of color are will depend in part on the racial-identity development of the people of color involved.[11] However, even if these efforts to build interracial relationships are successful, the individual must eventually confront the reality of his or her own whiteness.

We all must be able to embrace who we are in terms of our racial cultural heritage, not in terms of assumed superiority or inferiority, but as an integral part of our daily experience in which we can take pride. But for many white students who have come to understand the reality of racism in all of our lives, whiteness is still at this stage experienced as a source of shame rather than a source of pride. Efforts to define a positive white identity are still tentative. The confusion experienced at this stage is clearly expressed by Bob, a white male struggling with these issues. Five weeks into the semester, he wrote:

There have been many talk shows on in the past week that have focused on race. Along with the readings I'm finding that I'm looking at the people and topics in very different ways than I had in the past. I'm finding that this idea of white identity is more important than I thought. Yet white identity seems very hard to pin hole. I seem to have an idea and feel myself understanding what I need to do and why and then something presents itself that throws me into mass confusion. I feel that I need some resource that will help me through the process of finding white identity.


The next stage of white racial identity development, Immersion/Emersion, is a stage at which individuals intensify their efforts to create a positive self-definition as a white person. Helms writes, "The person in this stage is searching for the answers to the questions: 'Who am I racially?' and 'Who do I want to be?' and 'Who are you really?' "[12] Students at this stage actively seek white role models who might provide examples for nonoppressive ways of being white. Such examples might be found in the form of biographies or autobiographies of white individuals who have been engaged in a similar process. Unfortunately, these materials are not easily found because the lives of white antiracists or "allies" have not generally been subjects of study, a topic I will return to shortly.

Participation in white consciousness-raising groups organized specifically for the purpose of examining one's own racism is often helpful in this process. At Mount Holyoke College, where I currently teach, such a group was formed (White Women Against Racism) following the 1992 acquittal of the Los Angeles police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King. Support groups of this nature help to combat the social isolation antiracist whites often experience, and provide encouragement for continued development of a self-definition as a white ally.

It is at this stage that the feelings of guilt and shame are replaced with feelings of pride and excitement. Helms writes,

The person may begin to feel a euphoria perhaps akin to a religious rebirth. These positive feelings not only help to buttress the newly developing White identity, but provide the fuel by which the person can truly begin to tackle racism and oppression in its various forms.[13]

Mary, a senior writing her last journal entry of the semester, reflected this excitement at the changes she was observing in herself:

This past weekend I went to New York. . . . As always we drove through Harlem on our way downtown. For the first time in four years I didn't automatically feel nervous when we turned that corner. For the first time I took an active interest in what was going on in the neighborhood and in the neighborhood itself. When the bus driver pointed out some points of interest like the Apollo, I actually recognized the names and was truly appreciative that the driver had pointed them out. I know this doesn't sound like much to get excited about, and in all honesty it doesn't really excite me either. In a way though, I guess this serves as an object lesson of sorts for me; I CAN unlearn the racism that I've been taught. It required some thought beforehand, but it certainly wasn't difficult by any means. Clearly, the next step is to identify something new to focus on and unlearn THAT as well. I can't help feeling like this is how a toddler must feel--each step is a challenge and although sometimes you fall, you don't usually hurt yourself. But overwhelmingly, each step is exciting and an accomplishment. This metaphor has at least one flaw, however. I really can't believe that this ever becomes as unconscious and unthinking as walking is for us all. Maybe it will become as effortless, but I think that if it becomes unthinking then an essential building block of unlearning racism will have been taken away.


The last stage, the Autonomy stage, represents the culmination of the previous stages. The newly defined view of one's whiteness is internalized, and incorporated as part of one's own personal self- definition. This new sense of oneself must continue to be nurtured and supported, but as it is internalized, the individual may begin to expand his or her focus to awareness of other "isms."

Thus one finds the Autonomous person actively seeking opportunities to learn from other cultural groups. One also finds him or her actively becoming increasingly aware of how other forms of oppression (e.g., sexism, ageism) are related to racism and acting to eliminate them as well.[14]

Though this is descibed as the "last stage," it is important to understand that this process is not a static or a linear one. In the process of moving through these stages, there may be back-and-forth- movement, revisiting earlier stages and then moving forward again. I find the image of a spiral staircase is a helpful one in explaining this concept to students. As a person ascends a spiral staircase, he may stop and look down at the pattern on the floor below. When he reaches the next level, he may look down again and see the same pattern, but the vantage point has changed.


Each of these stages has implications for classroom interaction and student responsiveness to race-related content. The denial and resistance to the recognition of racism are characteristic of the first phase of white racial identity development. Strategies for responding to student resistance have been discussed in an earlier paper.[15] Here we will explore the particular challenges presented to the instructor and the student once the shift has been made to the second phase of development, the creation of a positive white identity.


The process of developing a positive white identity, described in the later stages of Helms's model, is hindered by the fact that there are really only three major models of whiteness readily available with which students might identify. The first model, that of the actively racist white supremacist, is familiar to many students. They have seen Klan leaders on the news and on television talk shows. As was illustrated earlier, they may have grown up in homes with parents who, though not Klan supporters, actively embraced the notion of the superiority of whites and the inferiority of people of color. The "white supremacist" model, however, is one that is clearly rejected at this phase of development.

The second model of whiteness might be described as the "what whiteness?" view. As described in the Contact stage, many whites simply do not acknowledge their racial category as personally significant. This failure to acknowledge the salience of skin color in U.S. society is associated with the failure to acknowledge the reality of racism. However, once racism has been acknowledged as a system of advantage based on race, the heightened awareness of white privilege eliminates this model as a personal option.[16] The individual can no longer ignore the fact that whiteness matters.

The third major model of whiteness might be described as the "guilty white" model. This style is characterized by the heightened awareness of racism and the accompanying shame and embarrassment about being white that so many of my students describe. Experiencing oneself as guilty is an uncomfortable state of being, and therefore is not a particularly appealing model for whites. In addition, the internal focus on one's own "guilt by association" can be immobilizing, and therefore interferes with one's ability to take effective action to interrupt expressions of racism. It is for this reason that people of color will often express impatience at what might be viewed as self-indulgent expressions of white guilt.

None of these three models of whiteness is attractive to the white individual struggling to define a positive sense of whiteness. Such an individual may feel that he or she is "re-inventing the wheel," and may retreat in frustration to an earlier stage of racial identity development. However, this frustration might be avoided if another, more positive model were readily available.


In fact, another model does exist. There is a history of white protest against racism, a history of whites who have resisted the role of oppressor and who have been allies to people of color. Unfortunately these whites are often invisible to students; their names are unknown.

Think back to the beginning of this article. How many names of white antiracists were on the tip of your tongue? If students have studied the civil rights era (many of my students are poorly informed about this period of history), they may know about Viola Liuzzo and Michael Schwerner and other whites killed for their antiracist efforts. But who wants to be a martyr? Do they know about white allies who spoke up, who worked for social change, who resisted racism and lived to tell about it? How did these white allies break free from the confines of the racist socialization they surely experienced to redefine themselves in this way? These are the voices that many white students are hungry to hear.

This information needs to be provided in order to help white students construct a pro-active white identity. In my class I try to provide concrete examples of such people. White professors teaching about racism who see themselves as allies may be able to share examples from their own lives and in this way might be role models for their white students. As an African-American professor, I am limited in this regard.[17] My strategy has been to invite a well-known white antiracist activist, Andrea Ayvazian, to my class to speak about her own personal journey toward an awareness of racism and her development as a white ally.[18] Students typically ask questions that reflect their fears about social isolation at this phase of development. "Did you lose friends when you started to speak up?" "My boyfriend makes a lot of racist comments. What can I do?" "What do you say to your father at Thanksgiving when he tells those jokes?"

White students, who often comment about how depressing it is to study about racism, typically say that the opportunity to talk with this ally gave them renewed hope.

Today's class began with a visit from . . . a white woman who has made dismantling white privilege a way of life. . . . Her personal story gave me a feeling of hope in the struggle against racism. [Terri, a white woman]
Now that we have learned about the severity of all of the horrible oppression in the world, it is comforting to know how I can become an ally. [Barbara, a white woman]
What a POWERFUL speaker! Andrea was so upbeat and energetic. I think that her talk really boosted the spirits in our class. I personally have become quite disillusioned with some of our small group discussions of late, and having her talk brought some deep reflection and positive insight on the future--especially ideas and revelations concerning my role as perhaps a white ally. . . . Her presentation was overall very well received, and I enjoyed it very much. There is hope! [Robin, a white female]

One point that the speaker discussed at length was the idea that "allies need allies," others who will support their efforts to swim against the tide of cultural and institutional racism. This point was especially helpful for one young woman who had been struggling with the feelings of isolation often experienced by whites in the Disintegration stage. She wrote:

About being an ally, a positive role model:
. . . it enhanced my positive feelings about the difference each individual (me!) can make. I don't need to feel helpless when there is so much I can do. I still can see how easily things can back-up and start getting depressing, but I can also see how it is possible to keep going strong and powerful. One of the most important points she made was the necessity of a support group/system; people to remind me of what I have done, why I should keep going, of why I'm making a difference, why I shouldn't feel helpless. I think our class started to help me with those issues, as soon as I started to let it, and now I've found similar supports in friends and family. They're out there, its just finding and establishing them--it really is a necessity. Without support, it would be too easy to give up, burn out, become helpless again. In any endeavor support is important, but when the forces against you are so prevalent and deep-rooted as racism is in this society, it is the only way to keep moving forward. [Joanne, a white woman]

In my view, the restoration of hope is an essential part of the learning process. Otherwise, students, both white and of color, become immobilized by their own despair.

Though the focus of this article is clearly on the process of white racial identity development, it should be pointed out that students of color also need to know that whites can be allies. For some students of color, the idea that there are white people who have moved beyond guilt to a position of claiming responsibility for the dismantling of institutional racism is a novel one. They too find hope in the possibility. Writing in response to the activist's visit, Sonia, a Latina, commented:

I don't know when I have been more impressed by anyone. She filled me with hope for the future. She made me believe that there are good people in the world and that whites suffer too and want to change things.

In addition to inviting Andrea Ayvazian to my class, I try to provide written materials about white people who have been engaged in examining their own white identity and who have made a commitment to antiracist activity in their own lives. However, this information is not easily located. One of the consequences of racism in our society is that those who oppose it are often marginalized. As Colman McCarthy writes in the foreword to The Universe Bends toward Justice, "students know warmakers, not peacemakers."[19] As with other marginalized groups, the stories of peacemakers, of white allies, are not readily accessed. Yet having access to these stories makes a difference to students who are looking for ways to be agents of change. A resource list of materials I have been able to identify is included at the conclusion of this article.

Students, motivated by their own need for such information, can be quite resourceful in the generation of this knowledge. Recently, a white woman who had taken my Psychology of Racism course conducted an independent study project investigating the phenomenological experience of being a white ally on a college campus. Interviewing other white women, ranging in age from nineteen to forty-seven, she was able to generate valuable information about the daily implications of being an antiracist? It was apparent that her research was more than an academic exercise--indeed a way to strengthen her own commitment to antiracist action. More of this kind of research needs to be done so that the fourth model of whiteness, that of the white ally, becomes a more visible option for white students.

Though the focus here has been on the provision of white role models for students trying to construct a positive white racial identity, it is important to acknowledge that there is a parallel need for both white students and students of color to see and read about clear examples of empowered people of color. Teaching about racism should not be only a litany of the ways people of color have been victimized by oppression. It must also include examples of the resistance of people of color to victimization. Just as white students are not eager to see themselves as oppressors, students of color do not want to be characterized as victims.[21] In addition, white students should not be led to believe that the role of the ally is to "help" victims of racism. The role of the ally is to speak up against systems of oppression, and to challenge other whites to do the same. Teaching about racism needs to shift from an exploration of the experiences of victims and victimizers to that of empowered people of color and their white allies, creating the possibility of working together as partners in the establishment of a more just society.

The Search for White Allies--Suggested Resources

The following resource list includes materials that examine the meaning of whiteness and/or provide biographical information about the lives of white allies. This list should not be considered an exhaustive one. It does represent the most useful materials I have been able to locate to date.

Barnard, H. F., ed. Outside the Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1985.

Barndt, J. Dismantling Racism: The Continuing Challenge to White America. Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1991.

Barndt, J., and C. Ruechle. "Rediscovering a Heritage Lost: A European- American Anti-Racist Identity." In America's Original Sin, 73-77. Washington, D.C.: Sojourner, 1992.

Berry, W. The Hidden Wound. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

Blauner, B. Black Lives, White Lives: Three Decades of Race Relations in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Boyle, S. P. The Desegregated Heart. New York: William Morrow, 1962.

Braden, A. "An Unfinished Revolution: The Vision of a Common Destiny." In America's Original Sin, edited by Washington, D.C.: 690 Sojourner, 1992.

Colby, A., and W, Damon, Some Do Care: Contemporary Lives of Moral Commitment. New York: Free Press, 1992.

Dees, M., with S. Fiffer, A Season of Justice: A Lawyer's Own Story of Victory over America's Hate Groups. New York: Touchstone Books, 1991.

Dennis, R. M. "Socialization and Racism: The White Experience." In Impacts of Racism on White Americans, edited by B. Bowser and R. G. Hunt, 71-85. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1981.

Derman-Sparks, L., C. L. Higa, and B. Sparks. "Suggestions for developing positive racial attitudes." Interracial Books for Children Bulletin 11, no. 3-4 (1980): 10-15.

Hampton, H., and S. Fayer, Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s-1980s. New York: Bantam Books, 1990.

Helms, J. E. A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being a White Person or Understanding the White Persons in Your Life. Topeka: Content Communications, 1992.

Johnson, R. E. "Making a Stand for Change: A Strategy for Empowering Individuals." In Opening Doors: Perspectives on Race Relations in Contemporary America, edited by H. J. Knopke, R. J. Norrell, and R. W. Roger, 151-164. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1991.

Katz, J. White Awareness: Handbook for Anti-Racism Training. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1978.

King, L. Confessions of a White Racist. New York: Viking, 1971.

Lester, J., "What Happens to the Mythmakers when the Myths Are Found to be Untrue?" Unpublished paper available from Equity Institute, Emeryville, Calif., 1987.

Levy, D. S. "The Cantor and the Klansman (an interview with Michael Weisser and Larry Trapp)." Time, February 17, 1992, pp. 14-16.

Mizell, L., S. Benett, B. Bowman, and L. Morin. "Different Ways of Seeing: Teaching in an Anti-racist School." In Freedom's Plow: Teaching in the Multicultural Classroom, edited by T. Perry and J. W. Fraser. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Nieto, S. "Vanessa Mattison: A Case Study." In her Affirming Diversity: The Sociopolitical Context of Multicultural Education, 60-68. New York: Longman, 1992.

Pratt, M. B. "Identity: Skin, Blood, Heart." In Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism, edited by E. Bulkin, M. B. Pratt, and B. Smith, 11-63. Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand, 1984.

Smith, L. Killers of the Dream (rev. and enl.; originally published 1949). New York: Norton, 1978.

Stalvey, L. M. Education of a WASP (originally published 1970). Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

Terkel, S. "Beyond Hatred: The Education of C. P. Ellis." Quest, 1980, pp. 23-26, 100-101.

Terkel, S. Race: How Blacks and Whites Think about the American Obsession. New York: Anchor Books, 1992.

Terry, R. W. For Whites Only. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1970.

Wallis, J. "By Accident of Birth: Growing Up White in Detroit." In America's Original Sin, 64-68. Washington, D.C.: Sojourner, 1992.

Ware, V. Beyond the Pale: White Women, Racism and History. London: Verso, 1992.

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Stacy Chandler in the compilation of this resource list.


1 See Beverly Daniel Tatum, "Talking about Race, Learning about Racism: An Application of Racial Identity Development Theory in the Classroom," Harvard Educational Review 62 (February 1992): 1-24.

2 Janet E. Helms, Black and White Racial Identity: Theory, Research and Practice (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1990).

3 Ibid., p. 3.

4 Ibid., p. 55.

5 For further discussion of the concept of white privilege and the advantages systematically conferred on whites, see Peggy McIntosh's working paper, White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to see Correspondences through Work in Women's Studies (Wellesley, Mass.: Wellesley College Center for Research on Women).

6 Helms, Black and White Racial Identity, chap. 4, p. 58.

7 Tatum, "Talking about Race, Learning about Racism."

8 For a discussion of the use of action-planning projects in a course on racism, see ibid.

9 Helms, Black and White Racial Identity, p. 60.

10 David Wellman, Portraits of White Racism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977).

11 For further discussion of the interaction effect of stages of racial- identity development for people of color and for whites, see Tatum, "Talking about Race, Learning about Racism."

12 Helms, Black and White Racial Identity, p. 62.

13 Ibid.

14 Ibid., p. 66.

15 Tatum, "Talking about Race, Learning about Racism."

16 Wellman, Portraits of White Racism.

17 Though I cannot speak from experience as a white ally, I do use examples of being an ally in those areas in which I am a member of the dominant group. For example, as a Christian, I can give examples of being an ally to Jews by interrupting anti-Semitism. Similarly, as a heterosexual, I can give examples of interrupting homophobic and heterosexist behavior.

18 I am fortunate that Andrea Ayvazian lives in my local community, For those interested in more information about her work, she can be contacted at Communitas, Inc., 245 Main St., Suite 207, Northampton, MA 01060.

19 Angie O'Gorman, The Universe Bends towards Justice: A Reader on Christian Non-Violence in the U.S. (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1990).

20 Stacy K. Chandler, "White Allies in a College Community: An Exploratory Study of the Subjective Meaning of Being an Anti-Racist" (Paper presented at the 46th Annual Mount Holyoke Undergraduate Psychology Conference, May 1, 1993). Copies available from B. D. Tatum, Department of Psychology and Education, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA 01075.

21 See Beverly Daniel Tatum, "African-American Identity, Achievement Motivation, and Missing History," Social Education 56 (1992): 331-34.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 95 Number 4, 1994, p. 462-476
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 107, Date Accessed: 3/16/2022 12:29:34 PM

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  • Beverly Tatum
    Mount Holyoke College

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