Helms (1995) offers a somewhat different approach to understanding how whites experience and relate to race in the United States through her model of white racial identity development. Rather than suggest a series of independent attitude statuses, as do Rowe, Behrens, and Leach (1995), she envisions a developmental process (defined by a series of stages or statuses) through which whites can move to recognize and abandon their privilege. According to Helms, each status or stage is supported by a unique pattern of psychological defense and means of processing racial experience. A statement typical of someone at that developmental level follows the description of each stage.
The first stage, contact status, begins with the individual’s internalization of the majority culture’s view of people of color, as well as the advantages of privilege. Whites at this level of awareness have developed a defense that Helms calls “obliviousness” to keep the issue of race out of consciousness. Bollin and Finkel (1995) describe contact status as the “naive belief that race does not really make a difference”
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