American Sociological Association

Stigma Allure and White Antiracist Identity Management

This article examines how “white antiracists” manage a perceived, and sometimes self-imposed, stigma. Given that whiteness and antiracism are often framed as antonyms, white engagement with matters commonly deemed “nonwhite issues” often involves a presentation of self that unsettles established habit and expected modes of interaction. Adding to the research on race and stigma, I demonstrate how privileged actors repeatedly construct a broken and stigmatized white and antiracist identity in which management of one recreates the stigmatization of the other. They not only accept a “spoiled” identity (whiteness-as-racist and antiracism-as-too-radical), but embrace stigma as markings of moral commitment and political authenticity. This dynamic—what I call stigma allure—illuminates how stigma, rather than a status to be shunned or entirely overcome, can become a desired component of identity formation that drives and orders human behavior toward utilitarian, symbolic, and self-creative goals.


Matthew W. Hughey





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