The principal of East Side Community School in Manhattan reportedly sent white parents a “tool for action,” urging them to first become “white traitors” before ultimately becoming advocates for “white abolition.”
Barnor Hesse, an associate professor of African American Studies, Political Science, and Sociology at Northwestern University, wrote the worksheet and its accompanying chart, titled “The 8 White Identities.”
The chart features a scale, delineating the eight “white identities,” according to Hesse. Those with Caucasian skin, based on the professor’s chart, fit into one of the following groups: “White supremacist,” “white voyeurism,” “white privilege,” “white benefit,” “white confessional,” “white critical,” “white traitor,” or “white abolition.”
Hesse’s chart suggests “white critical,” “white traitor,” and “white abolition” — located on the right side of the scale in green — are the only acceptable identities, with “white abolition” being the most appropriate group.
Here are the definitions of each “identity”:
White supremacist: Clearly marked white society that preserves, names, and values white superiority
White voyeurism: Wouldn’t challenge a white supremacist; desires non-whiteness because it’s interesting, pleasurable; seeks to control the consumption and appropriation of non-whiteness; fascination with culture (ex: 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 because benefitting through whiteness in public (some POC are in this category as well)
White confessional: Some exposure of whiteness takes place, but as a way of being accountable to POC after; seek validation from POC
White critical: Take on board critiques 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
Beneath the color-coded chart is the following quote, presumably from Hesse: “There is a regime of whiteness, and there are action-oriented white identities. People who identify with whiteness are one of these. It’s about time we build an ethnography of whiteness, since white people have been the ones writing about and governing others.”
This rhetoric would be widely condemned as deeply problematic and inherently racist if it were written about any other ethnicity, and rightly so.
If “white” were substituted for any other skin color, nationality, religion, or creed, the contents of Hesse’s worksheet would be profoundly offensive to society writ large.
Faithwire reached out to the principal of East Side Community School. If the principal responds to our request for more information, this article will be updated to include his comments.