Structural and systemic mechanisms reinforce institutionalized racism, whiteness, and white supremacy in the United States. These mechanisms prove adaptable and resilient, shifting and changing to continuously restructure and reinforce the material reality that people experience within a racialized social order. White people's incomprehension of complicity in racism and privilege, along with color-blind ideologies, perpetuate racialized disparities resulting from this social order and render white superiority as "normal" and "universal." This underlies an often internalized sense of normative, white American identity interconnected with racism and white supremacy. In a society where many white Americans remain sheltered from and/or resistant to acknowledging the material realities of institutionalized racism and white supremacy, how and why do some white people become racially aware and take action in favor of equity? That was the focus of this research project. In applying a multifaceted theoretical and methodological framework rooted in critical race theory, critical whiteness studies, grounded theory, and narrative approaches to the analysis of 33 interviews of white Americans, it emerged that the process of becoming racially aware is a complex process of ongoing identity (re)construction. Participants actively push against a normalized white identity to (re)construct an alternative white, racially aware identity, making sense of this identity (re)construction through three components of this process: (1) becoming aware through several stages; (2) making sense of the meaning of being racially aware; and (3) engaging in social action. Together, these components formulate this process of identity work and expand existing critical whiteness studies scholarship by deepening our understanding of how some white Americans attempt to deconstruct systemic inequities through their own identity (re)construction. Such understandings inform potential interventions that could be utilized for collective social change.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Sciences
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)
Sobke, Ashley, "Becoming Racially Aware: A Social Process of (Re)constructing an Alternative White Identity" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 1668.
Restricted to the UCF community until May 2024; it will then be open access.