Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
What experiences, contexts, and relationships are involved in the making of a white antiracist activist? I have explored this question in the context of teaching a whiteness awareness workshop in an upstate New York community with a self-selected multiracial group. In this paper, however, I turn the gaze on myself. As a white woman from upper-middle class origins, having grown up in a highly segregated predominantly white school district in California, I was deeply socialized into colorblind ideology, yet eventually I made it my life’s work to fight against the very institutionalized racism from which I benefit. The traces of this orientation are found early on—in my father’s anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights activism, in my experience moving between the US and Germany as a child, always living between two cultures, in my experiences of sexist microaggressions and patriarchal violence, in my alienation from dominant norms of heterosexual romance and feminine self-presentation. Though these feelings of alienation were necessary for my development as an activist, they were not sufficient on their own. The dynamics of privilege constantly pull those of us who benefit from it into accepting it, and it was the relationshipsand situationsin which I found myself that were crucial to turning feelings of alienation into effective ally work. However, this is an unfinished journey, and in the paper I engage with the tension of using the forms of oppression other than race that I have personally experienced to motivate my anti-racism.