It seems so obvious, doesn’t it? “White Pride” is a slogan beloved by the worst of the worst: Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and their ilk. Of course it’s racist.
And yet, I see the same argument pop up over and over: “If Black Pride and Indigenous Pride are okay, White Pride should be too! It’s racist if people say otherwise!”
This argument is incorrect. It is used out of ignorance, disingenuousness, and vitriol. White Pride will never carry the same positive connotations as Black Pride and Indigenous Pride. Why? The answer lies in the history of scientific racism.
I’m currently reading a book by Angela Saini, an incredible science journalist. It is called Superior: The Return of Race Science, and it delves deep into the formation of “race” as a concept. At the very outset of Europe’s colonisation efforts, there was a widespread belief that physical and mental race depended heavily on climate. Racism certainly existed, and lighter skin was valued while darker skin was seen as evil and impure – but the concept of ‘white’ as a fixed racial state of being was absent. Instead, when Europeans discriminated against people based on differing physical traits, they viewed those traits as impermanent and ‘fixable’. Europeans assumed that dark-skinned people who relocated to cold, elevated areas would turn white-skinned (I lived in Michigan for 4 years and did go blonde once, but that was more due to a really ill-advised attempt to bleach my bangs than any wibbly-wobbliness regarding my ethnicity). Conversely, 17th century Dutch colonists in Indonesia were regarded as having “gone native” by people back in Holland, since white-skinned people who moved to the tropics would turn into indolent, dark-skinned “Orientals”.
But in the 18th and 19th centuries, these ideas underwent a drastic shift. As colonialism spread like a genocidal virus throughout Africa, Asia, and the Americas, Europeans began classifying people into distinct – and permanent – races based on skin colour. They ascribed traits to each race, and ‘white’ came out on top as the most ‘intelligent’ and ‘civilised’, both of which are vague and very hard to pin down with specific definitions. How convenient for Europeans colonisers – who collectively formed the ‘white’ race. Their alleged intelligence and civilisation were used as justifications for putting brown and Black bodies on display in human zoos, instituting brutal slavery on Indonesian plantations, creating the Atlantic slave trade, and criminalising entire Indigenous tribes in South Asia.
So why is White Pride racist, while Black Pride and Indigenous Pride aren’t? Simple: because colonisation was one centuries-long, murderous, morbid celebration of white pride. White as a racial term was created solely to vault colonial European forces above the people they were slaughtering, sexually assaulting, and enslaving. There is no scientific distinction which makes people white. There is no ‘white’ culture, apart from a legacy of ‘white’ being used as a weapon against people termed ‘Black’, ‘brown’, ‘red’, and ‘yellow’ – classifications which were often forced upon culturally distinct groups of people in an effort to shoehorn every non-white person into racial boxes. Black Pride and Indigenous Pride developed in direct response to colonialism. They were, and are, ways for people who have long been denied access to their ancestral cultures to band together and rejoice at their strength and resilience in the face of colonialism’s evils. White Pride has nothing of these qualities. It is a party thrown by and for people who gained their power through conveniently classifying themselves as the race most deserving of power. It is a victory cry founded on a baseless sense of superiority.