Finding Their Place: How White Undergraduate Women Engage in Antiracism at an MSI



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Background: Racism and white supremacy are insidious, pervasive, and damaging to People of Color in this country and cause countless structural inequities. College campuses, often considered a microcosm of society, are also a reproduction of inequities. As the student demographics of higher education continue to change rapidly and campuses more increasingly diverse, it is important to understand how white students engage in these spaces. Purpose: Additional research is needed to explore how white students develop their racial identities in more racially diverse environments and how this development leads to engagement in antiracism. This study aimed to uncover what motivates white undergraduate women to engage in antiracism, and more specifically how the diverse MSI environment had an influence on their engagement. Methods: This narrative inquiry explored the lived experiences of white undergraduate women who engage in antiracism at an MSI in the southeastern United States. I used a modified three-interview process for in-depth interviewing to explore their experiences prior to and while in college. The method also allowed for participants to reflect on their experiences in this study and what they were taking away from it. I created a four-tiered analysis plan for this study to 1) familiarizing and listening to the data, 2) finding themes within narratives of each participant, 3) finding themes across narratives, and 4) adding meaning and interpretation to the themes. Results: The participants narrated experiences from their childhood to young adulthood. Developing relationships with People of Color over their lifetime and understanding their own identities brought clarity of the systemic and individual ways whiteness creates barriers for others. They discussed ways this enlightenment led to action within their student leadership on campus and how other initiatives provided by their academic programs kept their focus on antiracism and the need to learn more. Ultimately, trying to find their place in antiracism became their mission through the continuous examination of their past experiences, present actions, and planning of future engagement. Conclusion: This study explored experiences of white undergraduate women prior to college and how they engaged in antiracism while in college. Within this study, white women who believed in, support, and engaged in antiracism still perpetuated the “good white women” complex where comfort is placed above change, and they continued to carry out ideals of white supremacy. This study provided insight into opportunities for higher education practitioners, administrators, and researchers to understand the relationship between white undergraduate women and antiracism as a conduit to continue to create equitable, liberated spaces for all students on all campuses, and within society.



White women, Racial identity, Minority-serving institution, Antiracism