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
II. RATIONALE for RESEARCH
Although we have varied backgrounds, we came to this research out of a common interest as trainers working with people on issues of race relations. We felt, and still feel, that as white people we need to examine our own role in the greater American culture. This is a process easier said than done. Most white Americans do not spontaneously recognize that white culture is something that calls for self-examination and awareness.
As trainers we have to foster awareness; that's our role. To do so we need to design training exercises and topics that allow us as white Americans to view ourselves as cultural beings, to see the culture as well as to live it. And we can not do this effectively if we do not understand the topic ourselves.
From our research we have derived a greater understanding of what it takes to work as trainers with white people on issues of white culture. We hope that this report will be useful and beneficial to other trainers, both white and people of color, who have to work with white, or predominantly white, audiences on issues of race relations.
Our theoretical underpinnings come from the sparse work that has already been done. Two lines of research and writing seem to have emerged in the early 1990s. White feminists, who have been puzzled but concerned by the reluctance of women of color to place gender alliances above race, have begun a scholarship that describes white culture and white identity.
A second line of research has developed among counseling professionals. Various theorists have proposed developmental models of white identity (theories about other racial groups and their identities have also been put forth). Practitioners have described training sessions in which participants, professionals in training, explore the influence of their culture on their own experience. White practitioners encounter common issues and problems in need of resolution.
Other various authors on race and race relations have touched on aspects of white culture in their writings. We have taken this broader, less focused, body of writing as source material as well.
For our intended audience, we direct our writings to a diverse body of professionals. This would include academic professionals such as psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists; practitioners such as administrators, managers and supervisors; other professionals who deal with a wide public, such as counselors, social workers, educators, medical personnel, attorneys and other persons in the criminal justice system, and finally, practitioners of organizational and cultural change, trainers, management consultants and organization development professionals.
Our approach strives to be objective, but we must acknowledge that it stems from a basic dissatisfaction for the quality of race relations in contemporary America. We do want change, and we believe most Americans agree with us on this simple point. Race relations are nothing to brag about here in the United States. The polls often tell us that. So, we want things to get better. This is our way of trying to figure out how, exactly, to do that.
Our research is not quantitative. Occasionally we count fragments of speech and make global comparisons, e.g. participants in our focus groups expressed three times as many negative emotions as positive ones. But this is not quantitative research, and we do not want to frame it as such. We are seeking first and foremost to describe an area of interest, white culture.
While we do not aspire to be quantitative in this study, we do believe quantitative research has a role to play. Two of the researchers have had formal training in quantitative research methods, plus experience conducting quantitative studies. We are disappointed that a methodological approach that has been used so widely elsewhere in the behavioral sciences has been so little employed in the study of white culture.
Quantitative work, however,calls for clearly articulated hypotheses, which in turn call for recognition and understanding of a subject area. If we have a hypothesis for our research, it would follow from the question that began the introduction of this report, i.e. that white culture exists. This question is too broad to guide the design of a quantitative study.
However, we think our preliminary findings provide ample material for researchers to develop more specific hypotheses that can be tested quantitatively. We hope so. Good information on the topic of white culture is still lacking, but nonetheless essential to understanding race relations in America.
We need to say a word about our participants. When talking about race, the specter of racism always lingers. On a personal basis, this may mean wondering if one's actions and feelings are racist. It may also mean being prepared to defend oneself as non-racist against the accusations of others. Often, for white people at least, these issues and concerns are present in our thoughts.
In our research orientation, we have not tried to define what racism, racist feelings, or underlying racist motivations existed among participants. It is our feeling that if anyone was racist, we all are. No one intended, in the old style racism, to advocate the superiority of white culture at the expense of people of color.
To people of color we would note that intent and effect are two different things. Innocent intent has often hidden racist effects, and still does. This aspect of white culture is perhaps the one that has received the greatest attention in much of the literature.
But to us, those that experience our culture, we do judge ourselves by intent, and we know there is a difference between those who intend harm and will do harm, and those who want to do the right thing. It is figuring what the right thing is that is the crux of the problem. Often for white people, this is a matter of learning how to accept ourselves racially, given a history of race relations that places us in a role as bad guys. Sometimes it seems we spend so much energy reacting to that fact that we are unable to recognize and generate positive, non-racist views of white culture and experience.
Finally, we hope practitioners will find this information useful right now. We may not provide answers, but at least we are interested in framing questions. Properly framed, we found, questions to white people about white culture reveal aspects of our common experience that we do not often share - aspects that, when discussed, yield insight in who we are and who we want to be.