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Border Becky: Exploring White Women's Emotionality, Ignorance, and Investment in Whiteness

Fri, April 5, 2:25 to 3:55pm, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Floor: 600 Level, Room 606


Purpose: This paper will use counternarratives to reveal the deep commitment white women have to white supremacy in higher education. The white hegemonic alliance is as strong as those who continue to invest in it (Allen, 2009). Though many white women want to disinvest in whiteness, these white women are deemed “Border Beckys,” at the border between choosing to be a race traitor (Ignatiev & Garvey, 2014) or re-pledging their allegiance to white supremacy. Countering the assumption that that simply taking classes around race can persuade a white person to disinvest from whiteness, the emotionality of whiteness (Matias, 2016a) and the epistemology of white ignorance (Mills, 2007) together will demonstrate why disinvestment from whiteness will take more than one class about race.

Perspectives: Drawing from Critical Race Theory (CRT), counterstories will be used from the perspective of a Black woman PhD candidate as she observes Border Beckys. In tandem this paper also draws from Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS). Whiteness is defined by Allen (1998), Matias (2016b), and others as the social norms that upholds white supremacy and the everyday interactions that normalize white culture and ostracize people of Color (Leonardo, 2002). CRT and CWS work together to critically analyze why BorderBecky just can’t quit whiteness.

Methodology: Critical race theory’s counternarratives are used to address experiences through the lens of the oppressed (Delgado, 1989; Decuir, & Dixson 2004; Parker & Villalpando, 2007). This methodology is used to add to the genealogy of Black women’s experiences of whiteness in higher education, providing an academic space for people of Color to come together through writing to heal, reflect, and resist. Counterstories are not used to prove to good whites that racism is real (Hayes & Juarez, 2009), but to create data to disrupt, to transform, and to heal (Solórzano & Yosso, 2001)

Findings: This paper will reveal the holistic battle white women who are currently Border Beckys must undertake if they are truly committed to disinvesting from the white supremacist hegemonic alliance. Matias and Zembylas(2014), argues that whites become obsessed with proving they are not racist, instead of taking actions to dismantle racism in society. This paper establishes how white women are not seeking to disinvest from whiteness but perform how they’re not racist. Leonardo (2004) argues that white people are petrified of being called racists, which overshadows their ability to fully commit to disinvesting from whiteness.

Significance: This paper is significant because it tackles some of the core underlining and often neglected components of why white women still invest in whiteness. Using the term “Becky” establishes an academic backing that can be applied and analyzed when researching the pathology of whiteness. Matias and Nishi (2016) discuss how whiteness manifests in classrooms riddled with white women seeking to prove how they are not like other racist white people. Becky in the counterstories demonstrates the character-like roles white women play in a white supremacist folklore. Becky is a wake-up call to white women for them to do better because they know better!