White Women Doing Racism: A Critical Narrative Inquiry of White Women's Experiences of College
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College campuses continue to be inequitable spaces for students as access and experiences are stratified by race, gender, and class, among other social categories. As access to higher education has broadened, white women have gained access in greater percentages than most other race-gender groups; they are the most numerically represented in higher education as a whole, while their access to high status majors and elite institutions continues to lag behind that of white men. We also know, however, that white women have played historically significant and specific roles in the maintenance of racially unjust systems. We know very little, however, about how their experiences as students on college campuses contributed to or shaped their ways of doing racism. Undoubtedly, experiences of patriarchy, as well as heterosexism, classism, ablism and other oppressions shaped their ways of participating as white women in the racial order. This study asks the following questions as a way to better understand intersecting dynamics of power in higher education and white women’s experiences of and participation in these dynamics of oppression: • In what ways do undergraduate white women experience college? • In what ways do white women do racism while in college? • What college experiences shape and support the ways that white women learn and do racism? I use critical narrative inquiry, involving a two-stage interview process using open-ended interviews and photo elicitation. Four resonant threads echo through the narratives highlighting the ways that whiteness shapes their storied experiences: 1) desires for comfort and niceness, 2) silences and narratives shifts, 3) entitlements to space, and 4) aims for an unattainable ideal. These threads are supported by participants’ engagement in high impact educational practices (HIPs), uncovering the ways that (HIPs) serve as gendered curricula of white ignorance. This study suggests the decolonial frame and practice of answerability (Patel, 2016) as a way to reconceptualize not only high impact educational practices, but structures and practices as a whole within post-secondary education.
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