Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

White Racial Socialization: Progressive Fathers on Raising "Antiracist" Children

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

White Racial Socialization: Progressive Fathers on Raising "Antiracist" Children

Article excerpt

For the past 30 years, the definition of racial socialization has referred to how parents prepare children of color to flourish within a society structured by white supremacy. Drawing on ethnographic interviews with eight white affluent fathers, this study explores fathers' participation in white racial socialization processes. The article focuses on fathers who identify as "progressive" and examines the relationship between fathers' understandings of what it means to raise an "antiracist" child, the explicit and implicit lessons of racial socialization that follow from these understandings, and hegemonic whiteness. Findings illustrate how these fathers understand their role as a white father, how their attempts to raise antiracist children both challenge and reinforce hegemonic whiteness, and what role race and class privilege play in this process.

Racial socialization is typically defined as "the mechanisms through which parents transmit information, values, and perspectives about ... race to their children" (Hughes et al., 2006). For the past 30 years, this definition has referred to how parents prepare children of color to flourish within a society structured by white supremacy (Hughes et al., 2006; Winkler, 2012). Largely, research has focused on how parents prepare black children for potential experiences of prejudice and discrimination (Bowman & Howard, 1985; Hughes, 2003; Peters, 2002) or physical racial violence (Thomas & Blackmon, 2015); how "child, parent, and situational correlates" predict socialization practices (Brown, Tanner-Smith, Lesane-Brown, & Ezell, 2007, p. 15); and the impact these parenting strategies have on youth outcomes with respect to identity, self-esteem, coping strategies, academics, and so forth (see Hughes et al., 2006).

Scholarship on racial socialization has expanded dramatically in more recent years, incorporating research with Latino, Japanese American, and multiracial families (see, e.g., Brega & Coleman, 1999; Phinney & Chavira, 1995; Rollins & Hunter, 2013). However, few studies have theorized or empirically investigated the processes of racial socialization in white families who benefit from structural racial privilege (Burton, Bonilla-Silva, Ray, Buckelew, & Freeman, 2010). Burton et al. (2010) found that recent studies of racial socialization "assumed that people of color will encounter racism but did not fully examine the socialization processes among whites that lead them to discriminate" (p. 453). Given this, little is known about how the newest generation of young whites learns about race from their white families.

Although this article certainly extends existing academic scholarship, my research emerges in a moment of heightened public discourse surrounding race in America. Discussions about how to talk to children about race can be found throughout popular media: parenting blogs, op-eds, newspaper columns, and more debate the "best" way to talk about race with children in the aftermath of racist hate crimes or in the context of an increased focus on the long-standing racialized relationship between youth of color and the police. Urgent questions are being asked about how parents should discuss these topics with their children, including how to approach these topics with white children. But there is limited empirical social science evidence to draw on to help inform these discussions about white racial socialization. How do white children learn about race in the context of the white family? What role do parents play in shaping their children's racial views? And how do white parents-even those with the best, most racially progressive intentions of raising "antiracist" kids-sometimes still unintentionally reproduce the very structures they seek to challenge? Through identifying the ways in which these dynamics unfold, this article provides evidence that helps inform these urgent and important questions. Although this article focuses on only one small component of this complex process of children's racial learning in white families, the work is situated within a larger project that explores more broadly how ideologies that uphold white supremacy are shared, reproduced, challenged, and/or reworked by white children and their parents (Hagerman, 2016). …

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