Embargo Period


Degree Name

MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management

First Advisor

Bruce Dayton


The term ‘accountability’ in anti-racism work holds an array of understandings, as well as criticisms, and is heavily contextual in nature. Deemed a necessity by nearly all within anti-racism work due to the socialized racial superiority of whiteness and white culture, in general accountability aims to minimize oppressive manifestations of this internalized superiority experienced by white people and expand white racial identity awareness with the intent to work non-oppressively and collectively towards racial equity and justice. This qualitative research aims to more concretely conceptualize ‘accountability’ within white anti-racism work to provide clarity around such a laden, nuanced and often overused term. The research intended to focus on personal accountability, which I identified as individual practices of accountability in relation to oneself, and interpersonal accountability, which I identified as the understanding and practice of accountability in relation to others. However, as evidenced in the findings, the approach and framing of the research in such a way came with its own issues and critiques.

This study contributes the voices and opinions of ten white anti-racism organizers and educators who were interviewed on their understandings of accountability, as well as the criticisms and challenges that surface in their work in its conceptualization and application. Although both literature and participants emphasized the importance of self-examination, mutual accountable interracial relationship building, and collective focus towards a shared analysis and macro-level goal of systems change to enact real change, participants highlighted further complications and challenges in the nature ‘accountability’ has been used in the work, including tokenizing people of color, reducing diverse social identities into one monolithic concept, the concept and directional flow of power, as well as an awareness of one’s underlying motives in this work. The research identified significant challenges in the application of accountability, further highlighting the complexity that white people navigate in anti-racism work.


Civic and Community Engagement | Community-Based Research | Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Race and Ethnicity