Rule #1: Pass for white.
Yes, even whites must pass for white. But this means more than just looking physically like you are pure European by blood. It means acting white too. And not just any kind of white either, but an upper-middle-class White American sort of white, what Norman Podhoretz calls a “facsimile Wasp”.
It means talking and dressing like them, sharing their tastes and outlooks, not being too “different” – to assimilate into their culture, their world.
As Jews and many others who came to America from Europe discovered, they had to hide where they came from, any sign that they had ever been anything other than an upper-middle-class White American. They had to give up most of their culture and take on an Anglo one.
Rule #2: Disown your true self.
White Americans want their children to be perfect. They do not want them to be their true selves. That would make them “different” and “different” is bad. Yes, the “white is right” thinking is applied even (or especially) to whites themselves. It has its roots in Puritan ideas about sin.
White parents shape their children by conditional love. Their children, to keep their parents’ abusive, conditional love, the only love they know, disown those parts of their true selves their parents think are too “different”.
They are no longer whole inside but broken. They show only part of themselves to the world, hiding the rest out of shame. A shame they deny and are too afraid to face but which lies at the heart of their being. Thandeka calls this white shame.
The anger that should be directed against their parents is instead directed against blacks and others who have been racialized as “different”.
Rule #3: Act racist when required.
Notice I said “act”, not “be”. Thandeka points out that many whites will act in racist ways even though they have no racist beliefs themselves, even when they must go against their own ideas of right and wrong. Why? Because they do not want to become an outcast among whites – particularly the whites in their family or at school or work, particularly their own parents.
For example, whites will remain silent when they know they should speak up about something racist that was said or done. Or they will not marry blacks because their family disapproves. Etc.
These acts are not without cost: they add to one’s white shame and therefore to one’s brokenness.
Comment: Thandeka’s model makes sense of why so many whites seem fake and why they think being different means you are screwed up somehow.
It also falls somewhat close to what I have said myself about the white club and the five walls of racism.