American Sociological Association

Why Is the Time Always Right for White and Wrong For Us? How Racialized Youth Make Sense of Whiteness and Temporal Inequality

Independently, the study of whiteness and the study of time are important interventions in sociology. A solid foundation for any empirical investigation of the relationship between whiteness and the racialized temporalities of racialized youth, however, has yet to be set. Drawing on data from 30 in-person interviews and ethnographic methods, the author explores how racialized youth interpret time in relation to whiteness and the experiences of white youth. The data for this research are based on more than one year of fieldwork at Run-a-Way, a multiservice center for youth. Results show that racialized youth view white youth as having more time to take advantage of educational and employment opportunities. As a result of the perceived temporal advantage held by their white counterparts, racialized youth expressed feelings of temporal inequality and disparate life chances. Forced to work twice as hard to be half as good, youth saw their time horizons as compressed. The author shows how racialized youth lose time through physical, psychic, and emotional labor required to process racialization and racism and illustrates the various structural mechanisms that steal their time. Despite the temporal inequalities between them and their white counterparts, youth at Run-a-Way discovered ways to invert the terms of temporality to ensure that their culture was always most relevant and “up to date.” Although whiteness is linked to modernity and that which is future oriented, racialized youth viewed their white counterparts as behind time, lame, or just plain “wack” (uncool).

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Rahsaan Mahadeo





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