Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Rachel Rinaldo

Second Advisor

Kwame Holmes

Abstract

Sociological scholarship details the ways marginalized groups are limited through institutions of oppression in the United States, but often, the White men, who perpetuate and benefit from oppression are absent. Critical Whiteness Studies scholarship has proliferated in recent decades, but scholars still do not understand how White people rely on and protect their racial privilege in what Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2004) calls the “era of Colorblind racism.” Moreover, scholarship needs to expand understandings of how Whiteness and masculinity intersect in accruing privilege in the contemporary United States. This in-depth, qualitative study of ten, White men attending Western University shows how White men both rely on their White, masculine privilege as they think about their futures, while simultaneously negating the existence of privilege. Many respondents believed that the U.S. functioned as a meritocracy, in which anyone could be successful as long as they “put in the effort,” “found something they were passionate about”, or abided by a “bootstrap mentality.” These narratives are indicative of a self-protective, yet socially attuned White, masculine habitus unique to White men in college, as respondents were familiar with the “language of privilege,” yet created narrative explanations of this privilege which were oppressive and discriminatory. Furthermore, this study shows how White men conceive of society through a “Powerblind” ideology, as they felt that everyone in the U.S., regardless of their identity, possessed equal social-capital and therefore could equally attain upward-mobility. This study shows the need for increasing education around the current manifestations of racial and gendered oppression and also shows a need for more directed and impactful promotions of diversity as a means of creating more equity in the United States, because as it stands, the magnitude of racial and gender inequality leads White men to hold self-protective and powerblind conceptions of society, used so these actors of oppression may further benefit from their privilege.

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