American Sociological Association

Becoming White Teachers: Symbolic Interactions and Racializing the Raceless Norm in Predominantly Black Schools

Under the banner of critical whiteness studies, scholars from across the disciplinary spectrum have spent the past several decades investigating whiteness and white racial identity, both in the United States and abroad. Of the numerous findings, perhaps none is more pervasive than that of white racelessness: the idea that whites do not see themselves in racial terms but instead think of themselves as just normal. This article complicates white racelessness by examining whiteness that is spatially situated as the racial minority. Using an inductive interview method, the author interviews 32 white teachers who currently work in urban, predominantly black schools. Despite previous socialization as the invisible norm, white teachers were effectively racialized by repeated and continuous symbolic interactions with black students and their families. Through a multistep and mutually reinforcing process, teachers went from thinking of themselves as the invisible, raceless norm to seeing themselves as the hypervisible, racial other. Findings also show that white teachers devised ways to navigate their personal racial identities, all while trying to remain effective teachers to nonwhite students. The experiential loss of white privilege is also discussed.


Marcus Bell





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