“What Group?” Studying Whites and Whiteness in the Era of “Color-Blindness”

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Abstract

In this article I argue that despite the claims of some, all whites in racialized societies “have race.” But because of the current context of race in our society, I argue that scholars of “whiteness” face several difficult theoretical and methodological challenges. First is the problem of how to avoid essentializing race when talking about whites as a social collective. That is, scholars must contend with the challenge of how to write about what is shared by those racialized as white without implying that their experiences of racialization all will be the same. Second, within the current context of color-blind racial discourse, researchers must confront the reality that some whites claim not to experience their whiteness at all. Third, studies of whiteness must not be conducted in a vacuum: racial discourse or “culture” cannot be separated from material realities. Only by attending to and by recognizing these challenges will empirical research on whiteness be able to push the boundaries of our understandings about the role of whites as racial actors and thereby also contribute to our understanding of how race works more generally.

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