Shades of White: White Kids and Racial Identity in High School

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Shades of White is an ethnographic study of two high schools. One, "Valley Groves High School," was suburban, and the "whitest" high school in the region. Here the student body was comprised of non-Hispanic whites (83 percent), Hispanics (7 percent), Asians (5 percent), Filipinos (2 percent), and African Americans (2 percent). The other, "Clavey High," was metropolitan and more thoroughly multiracial--African American (54 percent), Asian American (23 percent), white (12 percent), Hispanic (8 percent), Filipino (2 percent), Pacific Islander (1 percent), and Native American (1 percent). Perry examines the making and living of whiteness in school life, asking about its formation through white students' interactions with one another and with peers of color. In this book the schoolyard is as important as are school curriculum, faculty, and administrators. Meanwhile, the familial and larger social contexts from which students arrive to complete each school day are deemed not so much stable, preexisting settings, as sites in relation to which selves and others must be reconceived and remade.

Contrasting two very different schools in different cities in the same region, the book argues that white racial identity formation must be understood by reference to processes of, "(1) association with people of color; (2) 'us-them' boundary making processes; (3) the ways class, gender and other identities interplay and influence one another; (4) the multi-racial self; and (5) the meanings derived from the structural-institutional context" (p. 180).

Perry draws extensively on young white students' voices, at times juxtaposing these with the language and self-descriptions of peers of color and of mixed heritage. The author intentionally makes room for long quotations from students, so that readers might follow Perry's own interpretive process, or indeed intervene and add their own. This makes the text thoroughly accessible, not just to scholars but to undergraduates and even...
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