Is It Time to Give up "Whiteness"?

By Tim Hjersted /
Feb 10, 2018
Is It Time to Give up "Whiteness"?

We know it's time to give up the faulty logic behind "white pride" but what about "whiteness" itself?

With our present knowledge of history, continuing to refer to ourselves and other people as "white people" is akin to continuing to affirm our identities primarily as "colonized and assimilated people." Because this history is still widely unknown, a brief primer:

In the 18th century, rich elites in America labeled a number of (at the time, differentiated) people "white" as part of a very strategic plan to disempower them and prevent them from rising up against their bosses. By granting specific legal and cultural privileges to "white" people that were denied to others, the ruling class of that era created an affinity between poor whites and their rich white bosses - a con which continues to this day, as we can see clearly with poor whites believing they have more in common with Trump than the black, brown, immigrant and other working class folk who work beside them.

References on the historical creation of whiteness:

To end the era of white identity politics, we need to stop implicitly affirming the realness of whiteness and, instead, help formerly identified white people (what I am tentatively coining FIWP) to realize "whiteness" is a historical fiction. As modern science informs us, whiteness has virtually no relationship to our current understanding of biology or genetics. The concept of whiteness is primarily a political and economic tool, which has succeeded quite marvelously to divide the working class and prevent us from organizing together for the last 240 odd years. We should not continue to identify ourselves with a label given to us by our historical enemies.

Because FIWP underwent a process of colonization, ancestral amnesia and assimilation, all of this historical knowledge surrounding whiteness has been lost. It had to be lost for the con to succeed. Only in the last decade, with this knowledge becoming widely accessible via the internet, has the potential for mass-awakening among FIWP become possible.

The task for FIWP today is to unlearn everything we have been taught about whiteness. Our task must be to throw off this identity of whiteness, which has been woven so deeply into our essential concept of self. We must embark on a journey of decolonization. But first, we have to realize that our minds have been colonized.

Remembering that we once primarily identified not as white, but as English, Irish, Swedish, German, Scottish and many other identities, each with their own history and culture, is not enough, however.

We must go beyond our original ethnic identities, pre-whiteness, and remember that before our ancestors were European colonizers, they were themselves colonized by Christianity and the imperial/religious wars that swept the region many centuries ago.

Before that, our ancestors were pagan and overall expressed a much greater diversity in culture and belief. Paganism was a term given to our ancestors by Christian invaders - another example of a people being labeled by their enemies. But pre-Christian Europe had a great diversity of culture, including Albanian, Armenian, Baltic, and Basque mythology; Celtic polytheism; Etruscan, Finnic, Georgian, and Norse mythology; Germanic, ancient Greek, Slavic and Vainakh religion and more. Before that, we can trace all of our human ancestors to Africa, and before that, we can trace our relatives to other species of animals and the rest of the tree of life. Finally, if we go back far enough, we can see that our oldest ancestors are the Earth, sun and stars.

This lineage, which we can trace back to the explosion of stars, represents the true cosmic story of our ancestry. It is a story far grander, far more beautiful, and far more meaningful than the story that sees FIWP merely as colonizers whose ancestry curiously only goes back a few generations.

This is something that I have become more and more passionate about writing about, as I believe that this process of subverting the realness of whiteness is key to undermining the resurgence of white nationalism and white identity politics. I don't believe that we can attack white racism by creating standards to divide "good whites" from "bad whites." Attacking "bad whites" for their racism, prejudice and other toxic beliefs, while effective to some degree, has also served to harden and solidify their own identity as white. It has hardened the edges between "us" and "them," and with this hardening of edges, we are implicitly playing a role in "their" continued existence as a "them." This divide strengthens both sides. By fighting and directly attacking the "bad whites" they accept our framing and become more determined than ever to fight us and resist in return. All force creates an equal counter-force. Instead, the concept of whiteness itself must be dissolved.

Rather than counter our opponent's blows with a more powerful blow of our own, we must redirect their energy in an unexpected way. Conservative, alt-right or white nationalist whites expect us to attack them. They expect us to label them racist, deplorable and other epithets. Instead, we must respond in a way that surprises them, in a way that has the potential to get them to escape their habit forms of listening and responding and to question our shared reality.

This activist strategy takes inspiration from Aikido and the principles of Kingian Nonviolence. It is a strategy that has the potential to be liberating for both them and us, creating one us.

This strategy is also necessary because we cannot end white supremacy by attacking it and replacing it with nothing. R. Buckminster Fuller's classic advice to activists and paradigm-shifters holds true for racial identity as well:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Trending Videos
Cancel The Apocalypse: Here are 30 Films to Help Unlock the Good Ending
Conversation Starters for Teachers & Students
Emotional Literacy
Featured Films

How to Use this Library

  • To start browsing, interact with the Explore button to filter content by type and topic. 99% of our 5000 video library is entirely free. Selections stack, so you can combine these options to view Documentaries about Economics, for example.

  • Add videos to our library! Half of our best content was added by members.

  • Have a question, site feature idea, or suggestion? We welcome your feedback!

  • Want to support us and watch some great films in the process? Our $5/mo Patrons get access to a growing number of our favorite documentaries that are unavailable for free.



Films For Action is a library for people who want to change the world.


Our mission is to provide citizens with the knowledge and perspectives essential to creating a more beautiful, just, sustainable, and democratic society.

Films For Action was founded in 2006 by a few friends in Lawrence, Kansas, after realizing how essential healthy media is to a healthy democracy.

Over the last 15 years, we've reviewed and curated over 1,000 free documentaries and 4,000 short films, plus over 150 pay-per-view documentaries, spanning 34 topics related to changing the world.

During this time we've been able to reach tens of millions of people - not by owning a TV network or spending truckloads of cash on advertising, but because millions of awesome people keep sharing 'films for action' with their friends on social media - in particular, our 850,000 supporters on Facebook and 70,000 site members. 

One of the coolest things is, thanks to our patrons, our library is ad-free and 100% supported by member donations. The Pay-Per-View films on our site, of course, help support the filmmakers, and 90-100% of the revenue for PPV films hosted by us goes to the filmmakers. 

To thank our $5/mo patron subscribers, we partner with filmmakers to provide access to a growing number of films that are unavailable for free. With just 29 highly-curated films at the moment, it's basically a mini "Netflix for world changers," but its main function is to support the library as a whole, which is 99% free and always will be.

Want to become a patron? Subscribe here. You can cancel or pause your subscription at any time.

If you'd like to know more, want to help out, or you're a filmmaker or distributor looking to collaborate, drop us a line via our contact page. 

You're also welcome and encouraged to submit videos directly to our library. Just click +Add Video at the top of the site and paste the video URL to get started. We share our favorite submissions with our fans on social media and feature them more prominently on the site.

Tim Hjersted
Co-Founder & Director
Lawrence, KS