Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Crossing the Color Line with a Different Perspective on Whiteness and (Anti)racism: A Response to Mary McDonald

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Crossing the Color Line with a Different Perspective on Whiteness and (Anti)racism: A Response to Mary McDonald

Article excerpt

How do White people construct and redefine whiteness in their own terms and as a means of preserving their social privilege, their place in the hierarchy of power, and their dominance in leisure entitlements? Over the years, scholarly inquiry of race and ethnicity has occurred in a myriad and aggregate of ways including various special journal issues and technical reports across recreation, parks, and leisure studies (Chavez, Winter, & Absher, 2008; Floyd, 1998; Floyd, Bocarro, & Thompson, 2008; Manning, 2001; Roberts & Rodriguez, 2002b; Sasidharan, 2002). A contribution to the discussion of race and whiteness has occurred in leisure studies somewhat with a focus on sports (Burdsey 2008; Hylton, 2005; Long & Hylton, 2002). In my experience, how whiteness manifests itself as a topic for inquiry in this field may be known as a scarcity to some, inadequate to others, and perhaps too complex to touch and therefore not studied by others (see Floyd, Bocarro and Thompson, 2008); hence, the need for this special issue on critical race theory and social justice perspectives on whiteness, difference, and anti-racism.

This paper is a response to McDonald (2009) and her work on "whiteness, leisure, and (anti)racism" including how whiteness functions to benefit white hegemony. She also discusses some of the issues and problems linked with studying whiteness and related intricacies that arise. I agree with some of her principles, yet in other ways I provide provocative counter-perspectives grounded in both theory and practice as they relate to multiculturalism in the sphere of parks and recreation. My overall purpose is twofold: ( 1 ) to challenge those who are interested in working for equity and social justice to engage in purposeful and practical areas of inquiry; and (2) to inform future research and practice concerning whiteness and privilege in the field of recreation, parks, and leisure studies. I draw parallels between McDonald's premises, my personal and scholarly experience, and offer suggestions for how our field can move in new directions regarding discourse on race and culture. I also pose new questions and suggest new approaches to studying whiteness, leisure and racism, which may heighten our capacity to reach common ground on these matters and potentially strive for equality in the face of racism, which so often divides.

My response is rooted in American soils due to the racial makeup of our country and is based on similar U.S. context as provided by McDonald (2009). While McDonald offers an account of whiteness in leisure, including somewhat of a broader social and political connection, my focus will revolve around this topic in relation to park use and exploring the outdoors during our leisure time. In this article I utilize aspects such as Smith's ethnic identity theory (1991), and assorted views of race connected with gender inequality and white privilege for contextual purposes. Furthermore, and significant to this topic, I provide a description of my own bi-racial and multicultural background as an offering and a challenge to the way academics make invisible (and benefit from) "whiteness" within the framework of academic discourse.

A Foreground: Critical Race Theory and Critical Questions

Definitions of race within academic discourse have no longer been rooted in essentialism, but rather understood as social constructions (e.g., Johnson, 1997; Stanfield & Dennis, 1993). According to Feagin, this understanding of racism itself is "not just about the construction of racial images, attitudes and identities. It is even more centrally about the creation, development and maintenance of white privilege, economic wealth, and sociopolitical power for over four centuries" (as cited in McDonald, 2009, p. 9). Thus, at its very base in both discourse and written scholarship, whiteness is known as a function of power and privilege.

In a critical inquiry committed to social justice, a definition must also consider how whiteness perpetuates itself through the intertwining poles of "normality" and "invisibility" (Ramos-Zayas, 2001, p. …

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