Skip to Main Content
Mobile Menu

Helm’s White Racial Identity Development Model

Two Phases: Abandonment of Racism & Defining a Non-Racist Identity

  1. Contact: People are:
    • Oblivious to racism
    • Lack an understanding of racism
    • Have minimal experiences with Black people
    • May profess to be color-blind

    Societal influence in perpetuating stereotypes and the superior/inferior dichotomy associated between Blacks and Whites are not noticed, but accepted unconsciously or consciously without critical thought or analysis. Racial and cultural differences are considered unimportant and these individuals seldom perceive themselves as “dominant” group members, or having biases and prejudices.

  2. Disintegration:the person becomes conflicted over un-resolvable racial moral dilemmas frequently perceived as polar opposites:
    • Believing one is nonracist, yet not wanting one’s son/daughter to marry a minority group member
    • Believing that “all men are created equal,” yet treating Blacks as second class citizens
    • Not acknowledging that oppression exists while witnessing it (e.g., the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles, California, 1991).

    The person becomes increasingly conscious of his/her Whiteness and may experience dissonance and conflict in choosing between own-group loyalty and humanism.

  3. Reintegration: Because of the tremendous influence that societal ideology exerts, initial resolution of dissonance often moves in the direction of the dominant ideology associated with race and one’s own socio-racial group identity. This stage may be characterized as a regression, for the tendency is to idealize one’s socio-racial group and to be intolerant of other minority groups. There is a firmer and more conscious belief in White racial superiority, and racial/ethnic minorities are blamed for their own problems.
  4. Pseudo-Independence: A person is likely to move into this phase due to a painful or insightful encounter or event, which jars the person from Reintegration status. The person begins to attempt an understanding of racial, cultural, and sexual orientation differences and may reach out to interact with minority group members. The choice of minority individuals, however, is based on how “similar” they are to him or her, and the primary mechanism used to understand racial issues is intellectual and conceptual. An attempt to understand has not reached the experiential and affective domains. In other words, understanding Euro-American White privilege, the sociopolitical aspects of race, and issues of bias, prejudice, and discrimination, tend to be more an intellectual exercise.
  5. Immersion/Emersion: If the person is reinforced to continue a personal exploration of himself or herself as a racial being,questions become focused on what it means to be White. Helms states that the person searches for an understanding of the personal meaning of racism and the ways by which one benefits from White privilege. There is an increasing willingness to truly confront one’s own biases, to redefine Whiteness, and to become more activistic in directly combating racism and oppression. This stage is marked with increasing experiential and affective understanding that were lacking in the previous status.
  6. Autonomy: Increasing awareness of one’s own Whiteness, reduced feelings of guilt, acceptance of one’s own role in perpetuating racism, renewed determination to abandon White entitlement leads to an autonomy status. The person is knowledgeable about racial, ethnic and cultural differences, values the diversity, and is no longer fearful, intimidated, or uncomfortable with the experiential reality of race. Development of a non-racist White identity becomes increasingly strong.

Helms (1995) ) from Sue, et al. (1998). Multicultural Counseling Competencies: Individual and
Organizational Development. Sage Productions. Thousand Oaks, CA.