On Being Proud of One's Race

I recently watched two documentaries related to White supremacism, and they made me realize that I don’t emotionally understand why anyone would be proud to be of a certain race. Why be proud of being White? I’m not proud of being Asian at all. I didn’t choose to be Asian, just like I didn’t choose to be male. I just happened to be born in a particular way.

This connects to a larger phenomenon that I don’t understand, and that is that people are proud of things that they didn’t achieve. Some American-born people say that they're proud to be American, for example. I find this to be a weird expression. Perhaps they like being an American because of the rights and the quality of life that they have, but being proud of it? I don’t get it. Maybe I have a too narrow of an understanding of the word, but personally, I'd only be proud of an achievement that's significantly attributable to my own actions. So I'll be proud when I complete my PhD, because that's something I, Jason, will do.

One of my friends suggests that people are proud of a particular trait when they find it to be good and when they possess it. Therefore, when someone says that she's proud to be x, it means that she thinks she’s a better person for it. This interpretation of pride certainly explains the meaning of the statement, “I’m proud to be American.” Anyone who says this can be plausibly interpreted as saying that she thinks she's a better person because she's American. This also clarifies one plausible interpretation of White supremacists having pride in their race: they think being White makes them better people.

But even if pride were better understood as my friend suggests, it's not appropriately used in those above cases. Being American is not a great-making property, and neither is being White. Hence, one’s nationality or race doesn’t make one a better person. And even if it were the case that White people, on average, possessed some great-making property that other races did not, it would not follow that any particular White person possesses that trait. Furthermore, for those White people who do possess this great-making property, why not just be proud of the property itself? Why be proud of the White race?

Another one of my friends suggests that the reason why White supremacists are proud of being White is because they lack personal achievements and so they look for a source of pride elsewhere. This is possible. Perhaps they are just mediocre people who mistakenly think that sharing the same race as Bach and Shakespeare makes them in any way better. If this is true, then my advice to them is the same as it is to everyone else: develop your potential in a passionate and nonharmful way.