What does it mean to be white?

THINKING ABOUT RACE (May 2008) – What does it mean to be White?

‘Many Whites in the United States have a strong sense of ethnic identity that is tied to their immigrant ancestors’ country of origin or to their experience in this country (New England Yankees, Midwestern Hoosiers, Appalachians, and so on).  … many United States Whites with a strong sense of ethnic identity do not have a strong sense of racial identity.  Indeed, many Whites take their Whiteness for granted to the extent that they do not consciously think about it.

‘…it has frequently been the case that White students enrolled in my class on racial and cultural issues in counseling expect to be taught all about the cultures of people of color, and they are almost always surprised to hear that we will be discussing the White group’s experience. Some students remark that they are not White; they are female, or working-class, or Catholic or Jewish, but not White. When challenged, they reluctantly admit that they are White but report that this is the first time they have had to think about what it means for them.”

From “White Racial Identity Development in the United States” by Rita Hardiman in Race, Ethnicity and Self: Identity in Multicultural Perspective, edited by Elizabeth Pathy Salett and Diane R. Koslow (Washington, DC: NMCI Publications, 1994).  [Note that in much of today’s literature about race, identifiers such as “White” and “Black” function as proper nouns, similar to “Caucasian” or “African-American,” and thus are capitalized.]

This entry was posted in 2008, Thinking About Race. Bookmark the permalink.