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
IV. ACCOUNTS of BEHAVIOR
Behavior can be viewed as a culturally-influenced repertoire of experiences available to each cultural member. By culturally-influenced, we intend to say that people who share common characteristics, (in this case, race) will have common experiences, whether or not these experiences are known or felt to be common by other cultural members. In terms of race, if we posit that white culture exists, we should also expect that white people will share similar, hence common, experiences based on their racial membership.
We have no way of measuring past actions and experiences directly from the discussion of the focus group. However, participants often told "stories" to illustrate their ideas and feelings. Oral storytelling is a cultural form for passing on information, and it was practiced with a fair degree of polish by participants in the focus group. Consider one participant who, when asked if she felt race affected her, said:
I think it affects me and I hate the fact it affects me, that I am aware. If I meet an Italian, an Irish person, or a German, I'm not aware. When I meet a person of color I'm immediately aware. That's...I mean I don't have a negative reaction, but I'm immediately aware. I don't like it. It bothers me. (Appendix E; No. 2),
When I went to school, I was a freshman, and there were people off the farm, literally came off the farm to go to college in [this rural, Northeastern region]. A good percentage of these people dropped out their first year, and had never seen a black in their lives. And they came into a college where all of a sudden there is diversity, and I mean they just flipped. They just didn't know what to think... (Appendix E; No. 22)
Participants did other things besides tell stories. They expressed opinions, made jokes, and spoke about hypothetical circumstances. Stories are distinguished from each of the latter types of discussion by the internal structure of the story-account. Taking a social psychological view, stories have persons, objects, roles, settings, plots and morals.
Persons consist of the storyteller's status when telling the story. The storyteller might recount it from the position of a family status such as spouse, or child. They might tell the story as a neighbor, community member or concerned citizen. Or, they might speak as an employee or employer. In each story, the storyteller has a status.
Objects refers to the statuses of other persons in the story, while roles refer to the relationships between the speaker and the others in the story.1 Settings are the places where the action in the story carries out, and plot describes the action that occurs. Morals comprise the most interesting, but also most subjective, of the categories we defined. Nonetheless, it was often the moral that was the most compelling part of the story.
The transcripts were reviewed to find points of the discussion that had all the elements of a story. Altogether, seventy-two stories were identified. This total includes all fifty-seven stories in which race played a part, plus another fifteen stories concerning other types of difference, such as ethnicity and gender. The stories are summarized in Appendix E.
Participants told stories from the status of their occupation, such as ministers, employees, trainees, social service workers, and managers. One minister, for example, described his role witnessing the actions and ministering to the needs of his congregation,
There are a lot of times when there are conflicts that are perceived differently by different people in the congregation depending on their race a lot. With some people these issues are seen with great frequency, and with some people the issues are not seen as being racially charged, mostly by whites. And sometimes the same situations are seen as racially charged by people of color in the congregations. And that also happens within their communities of color in the congregation because there are Latinos, African Americans, Caribbean Americans and Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese. It's interesting to see peoples' perspectives and be privy to hearing those perspectives. (Appendix E, No. 1)
People often spoke from the status of family member, as sons, daughters, parents, mothers, wives, godmothers, and children. A participant, speaking as a parent, said,
When my kids were ready to go to school we made a deliberate move to [a small, urban town] because we wanted our kids to be in an interracial community where they would have a lot of diversity and we wanted them to go to a public school. And, you know, that was a deliberate decision on our part. We knew it wasn't the best school system, but it's not a bad one. And you know that was something we did and our kids are who they are because we did it. (Appendix E, No. 23)
Other speaker statuses involved the educational arena, ranging from grade school all the way through to graduate school experiences. A former graduate student, speaking about gender, said,
The most out of place I have ever felt in my life was not on race, it was on sex, was when I was in graduate school on business and I was the only woman in my class. And the male teacher didn't think I belonged in the school and made it very clear. And anytime I said anything in that class, everybody's eyes were on me and I was standing for all women. And I came out of that class knowing what blacks felt like. I had never known what that experience felt like. I came out of that class and I knew what that felt like, because there was no way I could disguise myself. (Appendix E, No. 33)
Many people spoke of friendships, variously with white people and people of color. Thus one man remarked that,
A lot of my friends always tended to condescend, to make up for the fact they were white. Like, 'Oh, isn't he a great boxer,' Joe Louis the great boxer, or 'I listen to Nat King Cole all the time. He's the greatest.' It's like a condescending type, you know. 'You're OK, you're really great because we, I listen to you guys all the time.' Ball players, football players. And I always felt uncomfortable with that, and so rather than, rather than, it was either getting involved with that condescending nonsense, which I really, I was embarrassed by it, whenever I heard people talk that way I would walk away. I'd say, 'I don't think that's the way to do it. Maybe I don't have the answers, but I don't think that's the right way to do it.' (Appendix E, No. 40)
Participants also spoke as neighbors, dating partners, town citizens, community volunteers, audience members, and travellers. The stories, all together, encompassed a broad selection of speaker statuses cutting across several realms of social involvement.
In many cases the speakers spoke from a position of power, safety and comfort of white culture. One speaker even alluded to this feeling,2
I think one of the things I like about being white is one of the things I also really dislike, or have come to dislike about being white, and that's that I can't be so comfortable with it. I have rarely been in situations where I have felt out of place by being white. I mean rarely. And there's a kind of a comfort level that goes along with that, and when you put me in a situation where even the differences that exist among white people sort of disappear,... I think there's a real comfort that goes along with that, which on some level I guess I really like cause, it's a lot being comfortable, but also I've come to pretty much hate that, too.
Not all stories were told from the position of comfort or power. One story concerned powerlessness, and the loss of comfort that goes with it,
We were in [a neighborhood in Cleveland with race rioting] and in '64 or '65 it burned it down. It was burned down. And I saw Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson and the black Muslims speaking in a burnt-out A&P. And there were maybe five whites there, and I remember coming outside afterwards and coming up to say something to Jesse Jackson, because I heard him speak, and being shoved up against a fence and frisked before I could say anything or do anything. Then I said very little, and did less. (Appendix E, No. 36)
B. Others and Roles
In social interaction, we influence and are influenced by others in our social environment. Like us, these others also have social statues. While generally the storyteller only played one role -- or sometimes two when contrasting two different settings or ages -- a single story could name a multitude of others.
The others were at times singular persons, such as clerical worker, wife, child, friend, youth. Other times the others were groups, such as persons familiar with the city, whites, blacks, all minorities.
If the others were varied, so too were the roles that the speakers played vis a vis the others they named. Often speakers were witnesses to events. That is, they were available to view an activity, and they recounted what they saw to the focus group to make a point. One participant witnessed the following:
When we got to America in the '60s, I mean, with what happened [with race riots] in Newark and all that my parents went 'Oh, my god.' So then after that we said, okay, so that's how things are here , but... [many participants begin talking here, simultaneously] ...my father worked in Elizabeth. He was afraid to go because he had to go through Newark. He used to take the train... (Appendix E, No. 70)
Witnessing was the most common role in which speakers found themselves. But, more often than witnessing, speakers were part of the action. This action took a multitude of forms: meeting, ministering to, inviting home, conversing, assisting, educating, recruiting, attending rituals, listening, and so forth.
Sometimes the speaker was a listener. Unlike a witness, who does not have to be, a listener is part of the action. Listeners, if part of an audience or meeting, sit in chairs, act quietly, and attend to what is being said. One speaker, as listener, reported,
I heard [a speech] by a black woman almost two years ago now, who was speaking to a group of almost all white people and said, 'You need to figure out who you are. I know who I am. I'm a black woman and this is my heritage, and this is what it means, and this is who I am. I don't think any of you know who you are, your heritage.' And that stuck with me for almost two years. (Appendix E, No. 37)
Sometimes the speaker was in a position of having to please conflicting points of view. One speaker, a minister, told the story,
I'm dealing with one couple that wants to get married on a certain day and another couple wants to get married on the same day, and we're trying to figure out what, how we're going to decorate the church. I mean, one is a very well-to-do family, patrician, and one is a Hispanic, who have a totally different understanding and idea about what they're going to do. And to try to work in a community where you have radically different views and understandings of weddings, events like that, it's my experience it's a daily one of struggle to try to celebrate, honor, the various traditions we have and still keep them together. (Appendix E, No. 47)
A second speaker told of another occupational status that brought on conflicting roles,
...sometimes there are companies I've dealt with, say, 'Look, this manager doesn't hire black kids, don't waste their time.' Or the opposite where companies are encouraging and will say specifically to me, 'Keep your eyes open for diversity candidates because we're under scrutiny... the large companies are under pressure to get qualified diversity candidates in for professional level positions, not just the support levels, and are definitely under the gun. (Appendix E, No. 24)
One had the feeling the speakers in such circumstances had to temporarily suspend their own beliefs and feelings to mediate between larger, more strongly invested, and more opinionated forces in their lives.
Sometimes the roles changed historically, that is, over time. In one story the characters remained the same, but the speaker and the other move from high school to college student status. Likewise, the speaker hints her role toward the other changes as well,
one of my very best friends when I was in high school was a black woman, a young black girl at that point. She wasn't a woman, we were girls and we were partners and we just had the best time together. And, even through college, this was, you know, we had, it was just in our circle of friends. (Appendix E, No. 4)
Other times roles were historical, but restricted to a single period of time,
I grew up in the days when they had a separate water fountain for black people and the blacks sat on the back of the bus, and I went on the same bus and sat in the front. And I, that just makes me cringe, but that was what I noticed. (Appendix E, No. 62)
Settings, like other story elements, varied widely. Sometimes the setting was family, other times the neighborhood. One speaker, telling of a family setting, said,
I see it in the young people. I mean they say things, in my household they say things they never heard from me. I mean they, I'm appalled that they, they're hearing it somewhere, and I think the television is a big factor. Certainly television tends to portray an awful lot of blacks as villains or criminals. (Appendix E, No. 18)
Another story about youth, this time the speaker's, is set in the neighborhood,
I knew color and everything, but I didn't understand the implications until I moved out of my neighborhood into another neighborhood that was predominantly of the Caucasian descent, okay. And the first person I made friends with was a person of color, okay. And I'm walking down the street..., and people I didn't even know, I wasn't on the block a couple of weeks... It blew my mind. I was just seventeen, seventeen years old. It's, it's ridiculous. (Appendix E, No. 65)
Often the settings are nonspecific. One might imagine a plausible setting for the story, but none is specified in the story itself. Thus one speaker said,
I've had a friend of mine who is black say to me, 'You know when you're not with me, if I go into a store, there's someone watching me thinking that I'm going to shoplift.' And I can't believe it. Not only does it bother me, it's really unbelievable to me. (Appendix E, No. 63)
In this story the setting where the action takes place, that is, the place where the speaker listens to their black friend, is not given. One can only infer it was a circumstance when two friends could confer with one another.
Occasionally the setting gave rise to expectations by the speaker concerning the activity of others. The following story illustrates an instance in which such expectations arose, and were not fully met:
We had black neighbors and we were always very friendly to one another but not as close as we might have been with others. But I felt that a lot of that was really from the black neighbors, that they kept us at arm's length. (Appendix E, No. 5)
Among other settings mentioned by speakers were high school, college, the workplace and office, urban and suburban communities, black churches, and even foreign countries.
Plot refers to the activity or event that the story describes. The plots of the stories told by the participants are hard to characterize. Generally the activity was not complex or elaborate. At most, one or two simple activities were mentioned. However, on some occasions lengthy descriptions were given,
We were in Africa visiting my white sister and her husband who were in the Peace Corps in Niger. And we got off the plane and my wife and daughter went over to the counter. And I'm lugging four suitcases down this passageway. It's about like this [indicates narrow width] with a railing on this side and a wall on this side. At the end of this passageway stood a very large military person. At least I assumed he was military because he had these nifty black boots, the green pants, the Mr. Green Jeans pockets in them, and a very large gun. And I was struggling to get all this stuff schlepped down the passageway. And he's just kind of standing there at the end so I can't get past him, and he says something to me in French. I said, 'I'm sorry. I don't speak French.' And he said, 'I don't suppose you speak Hausi either, do you?' I said, 'No, I don't.' He says 'You're not going to have a very easy time in my country, are you?' And he just stood there as I tried to squeeze past him to get out. (Appendix E, No. 34)
On other occasions the plot is minimal, amounting to the simple act of making an observation,
My husband works at [a large package-delivery company] and there are in the next level of management above him, there are three supervisors, all of who are black. But one is Jamaican, one is West Indian, and one is what you would call an American black experience. (Appendix E, No. 54)
Virtually every story contained a moral, or a point that the story illustrated. The term morals, in the sense we use it, refers to warnings and concerns, encouragements and interests, and guidelines and suggestions about social conduct. These morals were often reinforced by the storytellers' accounts of the experiences and feelings such conduct might occasion.
Sometimes the moral point was made directly by the storyteller. One participant, for instance, told a long story about a lecture by a church dignitary that reflected pointedly on both the negative and positive accomplishments of the church. The participant then took the moral point of the lecturer and, with a small modification, made it the moral point of his own story:
He [the church dignitary] says 'Now there are some in our society who will look at the reality of the church and say it is scandal, and the fact of the matter is they're right. And many of you don't want to know that, but it's the truth. We are a scandal. And the truth is also we are a glory, and there are some who don't want to look at the glory, and they don't want to deal with the fact they are a scandal, that there's a historical problem.'
Note that while the speaker gave an explicit statement of his moral, it was not a simple one. It did not provide an unambiguous rule of behavior, or an objective guideline that one could follow. Storytelling did not serve this direct purpose.3 More often than not, the moral point was implied by the speaker, and left to the listener to infer. Thus one speaker said:
In a sense I think it's kind of a metaphor for any kind of a racial, or any kind of a very foundational experience. I think being white is some of the most glorious contributions of art and literature, and of sciences and so on, and we are some of the most morally bankrupt people that have probably existed as well. And I think that there are glories and scandals in any ethnic, racial, religious institutions that exist. And it doesn't do us any good to talk about the celebration of our whiteness if we don't also recognize the scandal of our whiteness. And it doesn't do us a lot of good to focus on the scandal of our whiteness, on the guilt and all the rest then if we can't also have a sense of pride and a sense of the glory of our ethnicity. (Appendix E, No. 41)
About a year ago I met a person, a woman, and when I came home I was telling somebody about it and they asked me was she black or white and I couldn't remember. And I was so happy I couldn't remember. I thought, 'Gee, I've made a breakthrough.' (Appendix E, No. 3)
The storyteller is recounting an experience, one that they viewed very positively. Although there is no entreatment by the storyteller that others be like her, there is the strong suggestion by the storyteller that a certain way of behaving (in this case, not seeing color) is desirable. Indeed, the fact that the storyteller was happy by not seeing color clearly suggests the storyteller feels this state of mind and mode of social perception (colorblindness) are worth striving for. However, the way in which the speaker conveys this point is much richer in detail, but also less explicit than had she simply said, 'People should not notice each others' color.'
Culture may be defined as "a set of rules or standards that, when acted upon by the members of a society, produce behavior that falls within a range of variance the members consider proper and acceptable."4 As previously noted, the storytelling that took place within the focus groups provides an view into the rules and standards of white culture. Participants used stories to examine their experiences and the experiences of others. An implicit part of this examination was consideration of how the action or observations conveyed in the stories reflected the way white people can and should be expected to behave given the range of experiences we may encounter.
In some cases the stories were set in unusual circumstances. For instance, some stories concerned experiences when whites found themselves to be in the minority, or in positions of relative powerlessness. In other cases the stories reflected what the speakers found to be normal everyday experience. Sometimes this was the very point of the story:
In my high school, which did have a very large black component, must have been about 20% black when I went, which was large compared to my elementary school, what would happen would be that the black students and the white students would basically be in different classes on different tracks, and stick to their own groups in the cafeteria, and that was how it was. (Appendix E, No. 13)
In another story, the storyteller comments of finding himself outside of the normal experience of white culture:
I sure as hell know what it felt to walk down the street [of a West African country] and know that everybody's eyes were on me and that everything I did was magnified about ten times and to know just how differently I and my culture were from the place that I was. And it wasn't real comfortable. Ninety-nine percent Muslim country that, just everything was not, was so unfamiliar to me, the language, the religion, the customs, everything. I just know how uncomfortable that felt. (Appendix E, No. 35)
Stories conveyed a multitude of concerns. Among them:
Not all participants shared each and every concern. Depending on their circumstance, one concern or another may have been more salient in their specific life experience. And not all concerns were explicitly tied to whiteness. Participants varied in the extent to which they voiced concerns as members of white culture versus concerns they felt as human beings in general. In the latter case there was a presumption that the concerns they felt were universal, i.e. shared by people of color as well. In the former case, whiteness was seen as an agent either creating the concern, or in providing the background in which the concern arose.
- People of color invoke feelings of fear and aversion in us and it is painful to feel these things.
- There is an uncomfortable, and possibly growing distance between white people and people of color.
- Outright and blatant discrimination is still practiced by white people in a way that is hidden from view in our larger, multiracial society.
- Whiteness creates a barrier to forming genuine relationships with people of color.
- We sometimes have to choose between our personal feelings and desires for closeness to a person or persons of color, and the demands of white culture.
- When you don't belong to a culture, it can and often will ostracize you.
- Racist acts are second nature for some white people, who feel they can practice them with impunity.
- We live comfortable lives that make us unaware of the hazards people of color face at the hands of white people, that is to say, us.
- Structural racism is hard to see when you are part of the structure, but its effects are still there.
- Whiteness, and the skills it teaches us, is becoming dysfunctional in today's pluralistic society.
- Our society is racially structured, and we are simply pawns in the structure.
- Some people of color are furious with us.
- Difference is relative. When we step outside of white culture, we become "different."
- We are sometimes condescending toward people of color, and this prevents forming genuine relationships.
- In a pluralistic society, it takes a lot of work to consider everyone's feelings and social needs.
- We have lost the sense of opportunity that used to hold people together in the United States.
- Individualism is fading as a social value, with the politics of difference and group difference becoming more important.
- Our society is becoming fragmented.
- The group in power, such as white people in the United States, uses that power to its advantage, even when on the face of things it proclaims to desire equality.
- The United States government encourages the idea of race as an identifier.
- We stereotype people, and these stereotypes are often wrong.
- It is painful to witness discrimination against people of color and to realize it is white people who are doing it.
- Sometimes we see color discrimination where it does not exist.
- Racial difference is not a natural concept. Children learn it from adults.
However, the main point we wish to emphasize is these are the concerns and themes that arose, and which we feel are reflective of white culture. Regardless of how the participants viewed the origin of the concern, as either universal or rooted in white experience, the foregoing list is reflective of how white people view their racial experience in the United States. As such, it provides a description of how and why white people conduct themselves in the way they do.
The validity of the concerns expressed were not often examined by the groups. In part this is the nature of storytelling. It is possible, within the framework of a story, to make opposite and contradictory points. Unlike a more explicit discussion of rules and moral guidelines, storytelling encompasses the complexities of our experience. Part of the complexity stems from the fact that, as human beings, we often have multiple feelings and beliefs, some of which are inconsistent and outrightly contradictory. One interesting example arose in a story told by a sales manager concerning the proper way to conduct oneself toward people different from one's own background:
A salesguy..., he happens to see a black customer coming to the door and his comment to me was 'I'm used to dealing with these type of people. I know how to handle them.' [I said] Phsew! Woah! Time out fellow. Sit down. You don't know how to handle anybody till you get rid of that attitude. Get out there and deal with them as an individual who is geared to purchase something that I have. If you can't deal with that, leave. And that goes with Asians or anything else. I deal with a lot of Asians. The toughest part you have is going, holding your head together, trying to work with them and talk to them with your hands [mimics unintelligible chatter]. They tend to do that, on the same level. But I mean, that's racist, at least to me. That's a person, I'm not saying they're going out in the street and beating down people and burning crosses somewhere. But that's a racial tone that bugged me, okay. And you, you've got to stop that stuff right then and there, because hey, that's a customer, period. There's no color... (Appendix E, No. 68)
The storyteller takes a strong stand against an attitude expressed by a salesman and instructs the salesman to change. Ironically, in the course of this same story the sales manager characterizes Asians in a very stereotypical way, saying essentially he knew how to deal with them. In the course of his characterization, he did not offer a qualification that some Asians might be this way, and others might not. If one is to give a favorable reading to this story, it could be said that the sales manager was expressing the need to acquire skills for cross-cultural communication. Such skills require effort and genuineness to acquire and use effectively. Perhaps his choice of wording in the story was poor. By the same token, it is conceivable the salesman who claimed to know how to handle black people was making a claim to having similar cross-cultural skills. In neither case is it entirely clear what the actual motivation was.
This story raises two points. First, as complex beings we may experience different feelings, and views depending of different situations, different times, or when attending to different points of discussion or communication. Sometimes the activity or beliefs expressed by a participant in the group at one moment was very different from the activity and beliefs expressed by that same person at a later point. In part, this is the human condition. Few people are all good and all bad, all racist or without any racism whatsoever. Typically we go back and forth, sometimes one way, sometimes another, and hope in the long run we are doing what is right.
Second, regardless of what the true motives and experiences were for the participants of the story, it is clear from the sales manager's telling of the story that when he perceived someone to be racist, he was offended and he took action to stop it. Thus, while the activity may be ambiguous under post-discussion analysis, the moral point was nonetheless conveyed in a clear and unambiguous way.
While most of the stories seemed to convey warnings and concerns,5 a smaller number contained themes of encouragement and interest. Among the themes expressed in these stories were the following:
In many cases these themes echoed the warnings and concerns in other stories. For example, many participants felt concern about racial distance and polarization. On the positive side, participants who had overcome this distance at some time in their lives reported the experience as very positive, something very valuable to be sought out.
- Difference makes life interesting.
- Establishing authentic and trusting relationships across racial boundaries is a wonderful experience.
- Learning about diversity is an essential and positive component of our children's education.
- Change can happen quickly, and can be a positive experience.
- Personal relationships can bridge racial and cultural differences.
- It is important for us as white people to explore our identity.
- It feels nice not to be stereotyped as white by people of color.
- We need to see that opportunity in our society applies to people of all races.
- Being a numerical minority in a pluralistic society does not necessarily mean one will be dominated by others.
While many stories conveyed either warnings or encouragements, a substantial number simply stated guidelines for beliefs and conduct. Among the various guidelines that were stated were:
While the researchers may agree or disagree with many of the offered guidelines, we report them as reflective of contemporary white culture. In effect, we would contend that many white people do in fact informally subscribe to views such as these to guide their own actions and to interpret the actions of others. Because these guidelines are cultural, they are often unquestioned. To many participants they seemed to simply be statements of what is obviously true.
- It is desirable not to be aware of someone's race.
- Our society is racially structured and both black and white people have racial preferences.
- Segregation has been present in our lives since we were young.
- We can tell who is white and who is black, but we don't think of it like that.
- Sometimes segregation is positive, as when immigrants band together in communities because they have difficulty negotiating the larger culture.
- Everyone is taught that other cultures are bad.
- Sending kids to a school that is predominantly white has nothing to do with race.
- Difference does not necessarily mean bad.
- Personal contact with people of other races is important.
- Other types of difference besides race can divide people.
- We are all different and products of a culture.
- Being viewed as other than white is a positive thing.
- White culture has very good and very bad points.
- Our concepts as children about racial difference are often misleading.
- Whites differ among ourselves regarding relationships with people of color.
- Often racial identity is not as important as other identities.
- Ethnicity is important, too.
- Labels are bad.
- To really learn about a culture, one must be exposed to it.
- People of color use race as an excuse; individuals are made by their own efforts.
F. Stories and White Culture
Not every white person is willing to acknowledge the notion that there is such a thing as white culture. We would posit that this reluctance to acknowledge the existence of white culture stems from at least two beliefs. First, many white Americans seem to believe that race does not affect their own lives in a personal way. Race is held to be something important to people of color, but of no central importance to white Americans. Yet when we look at the experience of the participants in the focus groups we find that race, and the fact of being white, impacted the participants in a number of different settings, in a multitude of roles, on several different occasions. Hence the fact that white Americans do not consciously think of themselves as racial beings is not necessarily a good guide. Clearly we are affected by race. Indeed, there are few other social phenomena that affect us across such a wide range of circumstances.
Second, many white Americans would claim that the fact of our whiteness does not lead us to have common experiences. Yet in listening to the stories told in each group, there was a remarkable familiarity to it all. This appears to have been sensed by the participants as well. There were very few instances in which a storyteller was asked to clarify a point, or in which one participant disagreed or failed to understand the point being made by another. Rather, participants seemed to enjoy the sharing that took place, and much of the sharing stemmed from a common understanding of the feelings, issues and concerns the various stories invoked.
By virtue of the widespread impact of whiteness articulated by the participants, and by the shared understanding of this impact we observed, we feel comfortable in making the claim that white culture, and the attendant white experience, has a real and significant presence in the American mosaic.
1. It is also possible that other-to-other relationships exist in stories. We limited our analysis to the roles implied in the interaction between the storyteller and the objects in his or her story.
2. The selection quoted is not actually a story by the criteria we outlined, but it illustrates the point of view from which many stories were told.
3. Participants did sometimes offer direct guidelines and suggestions to other participants. This was usually done as an explicit part of the conversation, in the manner of advice-giving. Stories, on the other hand, often conveyed more complex themes and feeling tones.
4. From William A. Haviland, Cultural Anthropology, Sixth Edition, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers, 1990.
5. By our admittedly informal classification, thirty-five (35) stories contained themes of warning and concern, twelve (12) stories contained themes of encouragement and interest, and thirty-one (31) stories contained guidelines and suggestions for behavior and beliefs. The total adds up to more than seventy-two stories because some of the stories were felt to contain more than one theme.