White Kids: Growing up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America

New York Univ. Sept. 2018. 280p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781479803682. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781479879076. SOC SCI
Hagerman (sociology, Mississippi State Univ.) offers a fascinating glimpse into the understudied world of affluent white American children's conceptions of race and racism. This study draws on ethnographic research conducted with 36 children ages ten to 13 and their immediate families. Hagerman selected families from three distinct neighborhoods in a Midwest metropolitan area she calls Petersfield: a wealthy suburb, a well-to-do city neighborhood, and a community with the reputation for being social-justice oriented. After introducing the families and their communities, Hagerman focuses on four specific sites of race learning: schools, peers, travel, and family. The final chapter revisits the young participants' articulations of race and racism, and the conclusion catches up with them four years after the initial interviews. Despite the author's welcome emphasis on children's agency in the creation of their own racial understandings, Hagerman never fully extricates her study from the long shadow of parental decision making; her conclusion that even children who attempt (albeit often in youthful ways) to address injustice are ineffectual seems premature. Still, this study provides rich data for further analysis and reflection.
VERDICT A crucial examination of the intimate family practices by which structural privilege is passed from generation to generation.

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