The “Invisibility” of Whiteness: A Study of Racial Identity of White Faculty in Predominately White Colleges and Universities
This paper is an inquiry into the personal and professional lived experiences of nine white, U.S. American faculty members teaching in predominately white colleges and universities. The research question asked about the experiences of whiteness by white faculty members. The depth and breadth of the interviews with the participants created an opportunity for a rich examination of their own worldviews and self-awareness regarding their whiteness and their roles in higher education.
This narrative study employed the phenomenological paradigm in order to ask how whiteness remains “invisible” to faculty members who espouse the benefits and value of diversity. The research was conducted through in-depth, semi-structured interviews, conversations, and observation. The researcher’s relationships with the individuals could be considered a limitation in terms of impartiality but also an asset towards gaining greater trust and honesty, thus creating a wealth of insight into decades of educating.
The study concluded that these white educators lack a significant awareness of their whiteness, of systemic racism and of racial privilege, but also present was a desire for greater awareness. There is also a strong element of colorblind and individualistic ideology present, as well as a paternalistic nature present. Eight out of the nine faculty members remain primarily in the first three stages of white racial identity development, and the ninth displays evidence of reaching the fourth stage. Current educators may find the data from this research useful by having access to often unspoken thoughts and feelings of white educators about being white and working with people of color in higher education. This inquiry uncovered a need for increased awareness of whiteness and its impact, and for a supportive network that will confront and transform oppression into liberation in higher education.