Thoughts on Interview with Janet Helms

This interview with Janet Helms  regarding her book: A Race is a Nice Thing to Have, was extremely informative. Janet Helms was able to study white racial identity; gain insight to their world and how they identify with race and privilege.  

In the video, one of the points made was that race is a social construct which determines how we treat each other, but has no bearing on how a person will behave.  I like how this video touches on the assumptions we make about people simply by the way they look. Even though you cannot tell anything about a person just by looking at them; people operate out of their assumptions of people based on their color.

According to Lee (2015), “In America, … black is associated with bad, evil, and ‘nasty’ things” (p.32). The messages about other races that we are feed via media and society are as follows: White people are elite, often viewed in a positive light no matter the circumstances, ideal body type and size (modeling agencies and most advertisements using white women). According to Lee (2015), “In America, white represents purity, cleanliness, and goodness,” (p.32). Latino, Hispanic people are immigrants, hard workers, thieves (stealing jobs), hot headed, unkempt (dirty). The messages about race that are in the media makes it very obvious as to who the “bad people are in America". When it comes to black men the messages about them are negative such as: criminal, super predator, deadbeat father, drug dealer, thugs-bad boys.  Here’s another way to look at: some people in the world are viewed as spiders (feared and killed because of it) and some people in the world are butterflies (born into the privilege of being seen as harmless, and is often set free/rewarded because of it). Now if you saw these two bugs in your home, which would you kill and which would you set free?

I encourage you to think about how you first came to know of race and color. What messages did you receive from your family and friends about race? The deepest need of the human heart is to be understood. I encourage you to take a look in to your racial identity in hopes to recognize and understand your biases. Click the following links and find out how you identify with your "Race"!                    

White Racial Identity Development Model

Black Racial Identity Development Model

Lee, T. K. (2015a). Diversity concepts and a discussion of racism. In T. K. Lee (Ed.), Embracing diversity: Treatment and care in addictions counseling (pp. 23-39). San Diego, CA: Cognella Publishing.

A Race Is a Nice Thing to Have

written by Janet E. Helms, fl. 1975; presented by Janet E. Helms, fl. 1975; interview by Allen E. Ivey, fl. 1980(Alexandria, VA: Microtraining Associates, 2008), 54 mins

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Tierra Youngblood-Field