Whiteness in American Life: Communication and Race in the Era of Donald Trump
Geary, Devon Elizabeth
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This thesis explored how a collection of individuals self-identifying as white liberals communicated about race in a challenging U.S. cultural moment. Within a few weeks of the white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, I interviewed 18 liberal whites. The objective of this study was to determine if these individuals communicated in ways which support racialized patterns, or conversely, if they communicated in ways which challenge political whiteness. Overall, I found that these individuals (a) said they lacked the ability to fully understand the experiences of people of color, and thus, needed to listen and learn from this populace; (b) advocated for talking about race and taking steps to overcome racial inequality, such as educating fellow whites about racial inequalities and white privilege; and (c) yet still communicated white fragility by expressing hesitance to actualize the steps that they identified as imperative for racial progress. This research has implications for how scholars and engaged citizens think about the necessary work of white liberals, including the degree of alignment between their asserted objectives for communication and actions for racial progress and what they actually put into practice.
- Communications