Black and white racial and ethnic identities in the Midwest

2006 2006

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation explores some of the ways that social identities, especially racial and ethnic identities, are experienced and discussed by black and white women and men in the Midwestern United States. Using secondary analysis of 135 interviews conducted with individuals who graduated from a Midwestern high school in the 1950s and 1960s, analyses focused on three sets of questions regarding group membership, social movements, and racial identities. The mixed method research design included systematic content analysis that served as an entry point for closer readings more aligned with grounded theory.

Quantitative analyses revealed that both blacks and whites used racial and ethnic labels to define themselves, although blacks were more likely than whites to use racial labels while whites were more likely than blacks to use ethnic labels. Individuals with social identities that were most directly related to social movements mentioned them as personally meaningful. Blacks regardless of gender, were more likely than whites to mention the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. as personally meaningful to them. Quantitative analyses also supported Stewart and Healy's (1989) generational model as members of the sixties cohort were more likely than the fifties cohort to mention the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King, Jr. as personally meaningful to them. Women, regardless of race, were more likely than men to mention the women's movement as personally meaningful to them.

Qualitative analyses of racial identities were coded and discussed in terms of discrimination, white privilege, being a minority, culture and colorblindness in relation to institutional and political structures. Discrimination was an especially important feature in the ways both blacks and whites talked about racial identities. Expressions of white privilege were accompanied by ambivalence and anxiety. Participants discussed encounters with the police as particularly racialized events, especially in relation to black masculinity. This study contributes to the existing literature on racial and ethnic identities by applying an expanded definition of race and ethnicity to include whiteness, and simultaneously exploring the narratives of people of color alongside whites.

Indexing (details)

African Americans;
Womens studies;
Minority & ethnic groups;
0325: African Americans
0453: Womens studies
0625: Personality
0631: Minority & ethnic groups
0631: Sociology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Psychology; Black identity; Ethnic identities; Midwest; Racial identity; White identity
Black and white racial and ethnic identities in the Midwest
Dottolo, Andrea L.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 67/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Stewart, Abigail J.
University of Michigan
University location
United States -- Michigan
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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