RACIAL CONSCIOUSNESS, IDENTITY, AND DISSONANCE AMONG WHITE WOMEN IN STUDENT AFFAIRS GRADUATE PROGRAMS
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The purpose of this study was to investigate racial identity among White women enrolled in student affairs and higher education (hereafter, SA/HE) master's degree programs. Guided by a social justice epistemology encompassing constructivism, feminist inquiry, and Critical Whiteness, this grounded theory study included the following research questions: (1) how does racial identity develop over time among White women; (2) how do White women construct racial identities; (3) in what ways do educational and professional experiences, including those that occur in SA/HE master's degree programs, influence White women's racial identities; and (4) in what ways do multiple layers of social context, including power and privilege, influence White women's racial identities? Data sources included two interviews with a sample of 11 White women in SA/HE master's degree programs, and data analysis procedures were consistent with grounded theory for social justice.
The outcome of this study was a grounded theory of racial consciousness, identity, and dissonance among White women in SA/HE graduate programs. The emergent theory consisted of two core processes: changing one's perspective and the emergence of racial dissonance. The first core process, changing one's perspective, foregrounded a series of developmental shifts through which participants became conscious of whiteness and developed racial identities. These shifts or "lenses" corresponded to a series of visual metaphors, including not seeing race, peripheral visions, and "opening my eyes."
The second core process, the emergence of racial dissonance, disrupted the developmental process of changing one's perspective. When new insights threatened preexisting worldviews, participants were forced to confront racial dissonance, or discomfort and ambiguity about race, identity, and privilege. In response, participants developed strategies for resisting, engaging, and transforming racial dissonance. Navigating racial dissonance was a performative process that gave participants the capacity to resume the developmental process of changing one's perspective and to adopt a new lens with two regions, "a conscious lens of whiteness" and "a vision for my life." This grounded theory of racial consciousness, identity, and dissonance among White women has implications for SA/HE graduate preparation programs, social identity and student development theory, and future research.