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Shades of White White Kids and Racial Identities in High School by Pamela Perry

Shades of White White Kids and Racial Identities in High School


Shades of White White Kids and Racial Identities in High School by Pamela Perry

What does it mean to be young, American, and white at the dawn of the twenty-first century? By exploring this question and revealing the everyday social processes by which high schoolers define white identities, Pamela Perry offers much-needed insights into the social construction of race and whiteness among youth. Through ethnographic research and in-depth interviews of students in two demographically distinct U.S. high schools-one suburban and predominantly white; the other urban, multiracial, and minority white-Perry shares students' candor about race and self-identification. By examining the meanings students attached (or didn't attach) to their social lives and everyday cultural practices, including their taste in music and clothes, she shows that the ways white students defined white identity were not only markedly different between the two schools but were considerably diverse and ambiguous within them as well. Challenging reductionist notions of whiteness and white racism, this study suggests how we might go beyond whiteness to new directions in antiracist activism and school reform. Shades of White is emblematic of an emerging second wave of whiteness studies that focuses on the racial identity of whites. It will appeal to scholars and students of anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies, as well as to those involved with high school education and antiracist activities.


In an overwhelmingly white country being white used to be seen as just being part of the majority, just a normal American. But how will our children think about it in schools where they will increasingly confront more and more students of other racial and ethnic identities? This book offers a sensitive and fascinating exploration of that question from the state at the cusp of that demographic revolution, California. Perry frames vital issues of integration and equity that demand leadership from the nation's educators not just for the sake of minority students, but to prepare whites to become a successful minority in a workable multiracial society. -Gary Orfield, Harvard University Do whites have a culture? Pamela Perry shows us that not only do they have a culture, they have many. An engrossing study of teenage peer culture in an increasingly multiracial society, Shades of White is an enlightening romp through white youth identity-an important contribution to the burgeoning literature on whiteness. -Dalton Conley, author of Honky

About the Author

Pamela Perry is Assistant Professor of Community Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Book Info

Publication date

14th February 2002


Pamela Perry

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Duke University Press


280 pages


Physical anthropology



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