Table of Contents
II. Rationale for Research
IV. Accounts of Behavior
V. Accounts of Feelings
APPENDIX A. - Materials Sent to Participants
APPENDIX B - Questions Asked of Each Group
APPENDIX D - Group Instructions and Guidelines
APPENDIX E - Chart - First-hand Accounts of Racial and Ethnic Activity
APPENDIX F - Chart - First-hand Accounts of Feelings
White culture -- is there such a thing?
Many of us would say no. But still we know which box to check on government forms. We may not believe our race constitutes a culture, but we know we have a race ascribed to us. And we often have feelings about that.
Some of us do feel that white culture exists. This report, and the research that produced it, reflect such a belief. In our observation and practice with organizations, we have found the concept of white culture to be useful and central to promoting transracial understanding and cooperation.
But there is an elusive quality to white culture. We live it and we experience it, but when asked to describe white culture most of us would draw a blank. This is a condition that people from many different cultures experience when their culture is the prevailing one in the region where they live.
Still, describing white culture is important if we intend to take it seriously. What are some its patterns, its limits, its norms, taboos, and collective guidelines? Does any of this make sense when most white Americans do not connect with one another on our racial identity? Often work-related or ethnic identities are more important to us.
To aid us in our organizational and clinical practice, we wanted to examine these questions. Research on white culture and white identity exists, but we found it a relatively sparse collection considering the information available on, say, African-American culture.
Some might say that white Americans are simply Americans, and that any research done on American culture and identity will describe white Americans as well. But we are forced to draw lessons from our practice, and we find that racial difference often means cultural difference as well. We find that virtually all American citizens want to be Americans, regardless of color. But, we find it far more characteristic of white people alone to say that race does not matter.
In order to answer some of these questions, a group of three white American researchers conducted three focus groups of white people under the sponsorship of Alfonso Associates.
The following report discusses our findings to this point.
Chapter II discusses our professional outlook and reason for doing this research in more detail.
Chapter III discusses our methods for holding the groups and collecting the data. Some people may wish to skip this section. Others will find it useful for evaluating our results.
Chapter IV contains our first description and analysis of white culture. In this case we document how participants described various activities that had a racial theme.
Chapter V follows with a description and analysis of feelings. Data used in Chapters Four and Five are listed in Appendices E and F.
This constitutes our analysis to date. We are continuing to look at the data and we anticipate doing two or three more chapters on other topics. This edition of the report has been printed in a limited quantity for distribution to professionals and to the focus group participants themselves.
The researchers on this project were Michael Gerhardt and Jeff Hitchcock. We all, for one reason or another, feel that race has been an important influence in our lives, both good and bad. We had spent a few months prior to the focus groups discussing the notions of white culture, white identity, and whiteness, and how these notions affected our ability to engage in transracial relationships.
We have found the project fruitful. It has helped us refine our practice. I hope that it will be useful for other professionals as well.