A White Side of Black Britain: The Concept of Racial Literacy

A White Side of Black Britain: The Concept of Racial Literacy

Ethnic and Racial Studies
Volume 27, Issue 6
November 2004
pages 878 – 907
DOI: 10.1080/0141987042000268512

France Winddance Twine, Professor of Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Opposition to transracial adoption on both sides of the Atlantic, has been based, in part, on the assumption that white parents cannot understand race or racism and thus cannot properly prepare children of multiracial heritage to cope with racism. In this article I draw on a seven-year ethnographic study to offer an intensive case study of white transracial birth parents that counters this racial logic. I draw on a subset of data collected from field research and in-depth interviews with 102 members of black-white interracial families in England. I provide an analysis of three practices that I discovered among white transracial birth parents who were attempting to cultivate ‘black’ identities in their children of multiracial heritage. I offer the concept of ‘racial literacy’ to theorize their parental labour as a type of anti-racist project that remains under the radar of conventional sociological analyses of racism and anti-racist social movements.

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