Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

Sub-Department

Language & Literacy

First Advisor

Susi Long

Second Advisor

Gloria Boutte

Abstract

In blatant, but also in nuanced, often invisible ways, racism continues to exist globally, nationally, and locally, implicating us all. However, our in maintaining a racially stratified and inequitable society is not something that appears suddenly in adulthood; its insidiously implicit nature is deeply rooted in the lives of young children. Therefore, to be able to interrupt and reverse those practices, it is important to understand how race is constructed during the early years. However, little is known about how white children in particular learn whiteness. To address this gap, this study looked closely at the lives of three white children to identify and examine discourses in their worlds to better understand how they learn to be raced. Using critical ethnography methodologies and pattern analysis techniques to gather and examine data over a nine-month period of time, I asked: What can I learn about the dominant discourses that shape three young white children's construction of race, particularly what it means to be white?

Grounded in sociocultural, critical race, and whiteness theories, analysis of data led to findings about how my children learned to be white were framed within dualities of consciousness (i.e., what it means to be and what it means not to be white). Hardly a simplistic dualism, I also learned that these constructions were situated within simultaneous other constructions of identity mediated by class, faith, nationalism, patriotism, etc. These identity messages were not tidy - at times they were completely contradictory and often competed with each other for dominance. Yet somehow, within the imbricated nature of multiple identity narratives, my children seemed to both reify and reject whiteness. Implications are provided to support adults in challenging and overturning practices in homes, places of worship, universities, and schools as we begin to address the complex and deep seated overhaul necessary to forefront anti-racist agendas.

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