Secret agent insiders to whiteness: mixed race women negotiating structure and agency Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Bettez, Silvia C.
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • In this dissertation, I explore the life stories of sixteen adult mixed race women who have one white parent and one parent who is a person of color. I examine how these women navigate their hybridity, what we can learn from their stories in our efforts to communicate across lines of racial difference, and what experiences the participants share that cross racial and ethnic lines. Data sources include multiple individual and group interviews with predominately middle-class, educated women living in San Francisco/Oakland, Albuquerque, and Boston. I coded the interview transcripts for themes and patterns and situated my analyses in relation to discourses of postcolonial hybridity, multiraciality, and social justice. In relation to navigating hybridity, the women's experiences reveal an interplay between personal agency, claimed through fluid identities, and limitations to social mobility and acceptance created by social, cultural, and institutional structures. When asked or compelled to choose, all participants chose to align themselves with people of color. I identify several factors that contribute to their ability to communicate across lines of racial difference including physical ambiguity, learning about multiple world views early in life, keen observation, and active listening. Several shared experiences emerged that crossed racial lines. The women in my study largely rejected their white identities, experienced their identities in fluid ways despite this rejection, claimed the right to self-identify racially/ethnically, and sought community with other mixed race people. One of the most significant findings is the degree to which many of the participants' stories were dedicated to discussions of cultural whiteness, which they viewed as inextricably linked to racism and white supremacy. This work adds to the small but growing field of mixed race studies and provides information on improving education for social justice. These narratives serve as embodied experiences of hybridity, challenging the disembodied postcolonial hybridity theories prevalent in the literature that disregard the actual lived experiences of "hybrid"/mixed race people. The stories and analysis also reveal ways in which racism and white privilege are enacted on social and institutional levels, and raise questions about theories of diversity built on racial binaries.
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  • In Copyright
  • Noblit, George W.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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