Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

The construction of whiteness by white anti-racism educators

Michael J Burchell, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The purpose of this study is to explore how white anti-racism educators understand and address whiteness in their teaching. This study describes how white anti-racism educators make sense of whiteness as a construct. This includes an exploration of how whiteness is defined, and an elaboration on the similarities and differences between these definitions. In addition, the study explores how white anti-racism educators address the concept of whiteness in their teaching and training. This study follows a phenomenological approach to data collection and analysis with regard to the research question: from the perspective of a white anti-racism educator, what is whiteness and how does it inform my practice? Twelve white anti-racism educators who identify as either university faculty or organizational consultants were interviewed for this study. Several themes emerged describing their interest in anti-racism education and how their journeys as anti-racist educations began with an early awareness that came from spiritual and religious values, family influences, relationships with people of color, and participation in anti-racism training. In describing the meaning of "whiteness," these anti-racism educators talked of whiteness as social construction, culture, power, and privilege. Finally, most of them shared feelings of ambivalence, hope, anxiety, and compassion that were derived from thinking about how whiteness has impacted their lives and how they felt they should teach about it. Important considerations based on this research include the role they play in raising the racial consciousness of other whites, the role of trust in their journey toward being an anti-racism educator, and how high-trust relationships have influenced how they view their work. And finally, they follow a set of principles or guidelines that help them situate whiteness within the context of their anti-racism educational practice. This study concludes with research limitations, as well as future research and practice implications.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Burchell, Michael J, "The construction of whiteness by white anti-racism educators" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3242348.