Whiteness as Stigma: Essentialist Identity Work by Mixed-Race Women

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science, Women on 2010-01-07 18:39Z by Steven

Whiteness as Stigma: Essentialist Identity Work by Mixed-Race Women

Symbolic Interaction
Volume 22, Number 3 (1999)
Pages 187–212
DOI 10.1525/si.1999.22.3.187

Debbie Storrs, Professor of Sociology
University of Idaho

Historically, in both the social sciences and the general public, racial mixing has been stigmatized. This stigmatization was fueled by whites’ desire to protect their racial privileges as well as the belief that hybridization between “pure” and superior white racial stocks and inferior non-white stocks produces an inferior being. While this view has been challenged within the social sciences, the general public’s sentiment toward racial mixing remains consistently negative. The low interracial marriage rate, particularly among blacks and whites, points to the lack of popular acceptance of racial mixing. This article reveals an unusual and creative reversal of the racial mixing problem by historically stigmatized mixed-race women. The women in this study reject dominant patterns of stigma by reassigning stigma to their European ancestry. Given this reversal, women articulate and embrace non-white identities. This article explains the reversal of the racial mixing problem as well as the identity work of women as they particulate the meaning of race and racial belonging within dominant racial logic. The identification of macro constraints and the illustration of individual agency in the negotiation of identity extends the symbolic interactionist perspective on identity formation.

I didn’t like my skin color, I really didn’t. I’m much too light. I don’t tan… All my brothers and sisters have more color to their skin. I just want pigment? I’m just tired of looking white… I just wish I were darker because I’m so pale. I am very pale
(Jamie, a mixed-race young woman)

For many, the statement above is counterintuitive, perhaps even amusing or bewildering, because of the historical tendency in the United States to stigmatize people of color based on the assumption that whiteness is not only normative but desirable, beautiful, and generally superior to non-whiteness. Using Goffman’s (1963) term, non-white identities are “stigmatized” by the dominant members of society. Jamie’s wish for pigment challenges the somatization of non-whiteness and the long held conception of whiteness. Through an analysis of mixed-race women’s narratives, this research reveals how women…

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Mixed Messages: Multiracial Identities in the “Color-Blind” Era

Posted in Anthologies, Books, Family/Parenting, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States, Women on 2009-10-12 23:29Z by Steven

Mixed Messages: Multiracial Identities in the “Color-Blind” Era

Lynne Rienner Publishers
405 pages
Hardcover: ISBN: 978-1-58826-372-8
Paperback: ISBN: 978-1-58826-398-8

Edited by David L. Brunsma, Professor of Sociology
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The experiences and voices of multiracial individuals are challenging current categories of race, profoundly altering the meaning of racial identity and in the process changing the cultural fabric of the nation. Exploring this new reality, the authors of Mixed Messages examine what we know about multiracial identities—and the implications of those identities for fundamental issues of justice and equality.

Read the entire introduction here.

Table of Contents

  • Mixed Messages: Doing Race in the Color-Blind Era—David L. Brunsma
    • Defining Race: Comparative Perspectives—F. James Davis.
    • Black, Honorary White, White: The Future of Race in the United States?—Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and David G. Embrick.
    • Racial Justice in a Black/Nonblack Society—George Yancey.
    • Carving Out a Middle Ground: The Case of Hawai’i—Jeffrey Moniz and Paul Spickard.
    • New Racial Identities, Old Arguments: Continuing Biological Reification—Rainier Spencer.
    • Color Blindness: An Obstacle to Racial Justice?—Charles A. Gallagher.
    • Racism, Whitespace, and the Rise of the Neo-Mulattos—Hayward Derrick Horton.
    • Race, Multiraciality, and the Neoconservative Agenda—G. Reginald Daniel and Josef Manuel Castañeda-Liles.
    • White Separatists in the Color-Blind Era: Redefining Multiracial and White Identities—Abby L. Ferber.
    • Defining Racism to Achieve Goals: The Multiracial and Black Reparations Movements—Johanna E. Foster.
    • Selling Mixedness: Marketing with Multiracial Identities—Kimberly McClain DaCosta.
    • It All Starts at Home: Racial Socialization in Multiracial Families—Kerry Ann Rockquemore,
      Tracey Laszloffy, and Julia Noveske.
    • Racial Logics and (Trans)Racial Identities: A View from Britain—France Winddance Twine.
    • Black and White: Family Opposition to Becoming Multiracial—Erica Chito Childs.
    • Negotiating Racial Identity in Social Interactions—R. L’Heureux Lewis and Kanika Bell.
    • Black/White Friendships in a Color-Blind Society—Kathleen Korgen and Eileen O’Brien.
    • Black and Latino: Dominican Americans Negotiate Racial Worlds—Benjamin Bailey.
    • Finding a Home: Housing the Color Line—Heather Dalmage.
    • Confronting Racism in the Therapist’s Office—Kwame Owusu-Bempah.
    • Culture and Identity in Mixed-Race Women’s Lives—Debbie Storrs.
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