A data-based examination focuses on what defines white identity and how it shapes political beliefs.
In this debut sociology book, Jardina takes a scholarly look at the evolution of white identity and white consciousness in the United States, drawing on several national surveys as well as an existing body of research. After a review of current literature on racial identity theory, the author takes readers through a statistical analysis that measures the correlation between people’s identification with whiteness and how they understand its role in their lives. She also offers a number of potentially related views and beliefs, like opinions about Social Security, welfare, and Medicare; real and perceived economic status; and the changing status of whites. Jardina finds little evidence of a connection between economic status and white identity, but a “powerful and robust” link between white identity and negative attitudes toward immigration. The book concludes that while previous studies have looked at whiteness as a response to other ethnic groups, it is more effective to assess whites’ attitudes toward their own community—in-group rather than out-group relations, in sociology terms. While the volume’s many figures and paragraphs of statistical analysis can make for dry reading—though excerpts from responses to the surveys’ open-ended questions do provide some anecdotal leavening—Jardina’s prose is strong when she begins to draw conclusions from her data: “Put bluntly, the politics of white identity is marked by an insidious illusion, one in which whites claim their group experiences discrimination in an effort to reinforce and maintain a system of racial inequality where whites are the dominant group with the lion’s share of power and privileges.” The work’s narrative structure will be more appealing to the specialist or researcher than to casual readers. But for its intended audience, the volume is an admirable success, with coherent arguments (many continued in the detailed endnotes), a clearly explained research process, and a new outlook that may encourage readers to approach questions of white identity from a more useful perspective.
A well-researched analysis of what white identity means from an academic’s point of view.