Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Dr. Robert Wyrod

Second Advisor

Dr. Matthew Brown

Third Advisor

Dr. Kwame Holmes


This study uses a Critical Race Studies approach to understand how White liberals construct their identity and how this impacts their racial activism. It is based on twelve semi-structured interviews with White self-identified liberals and participant observation at a Democratic Party rally. In this thesis, I argue that White liberals construct a Good/Bad hierarchy to create a morally-elite, non-racist ‘We the People’ identity. However, this identity does not translate into effective racial activism. This is due in part to the broader context of neoliberal capitalism that conditions my participants to be passive consumers. Thus, they do not engage in racial activism unless it is ‘marketed’ as universal, appealing, and easy. Ultimately, I found that the White liberal identity shaped liberals’ racial activism in ways that served to uphold White supremacy.