Race and Social Problems

, Volume 4, Issue 3–4, pp 133–143 | Cite as

Racialization in Public and Private: Memories of First Racial Experiences

  • Shannon K. CarterEmail author
  • Leslie H. Picca
  • Brittany N. Murray


Research suggests retention of childhood memories into adulthood requires such memories to hold a certain amount of importance. Therefore, initial racial memories likely play a role in one’s racialization process, or formulation of an understanding of race. This study uses data from 49 in-depth interviews with white undergraduate students on memories of their first experiences of race. Data generally fell into the categories of private and public racialization. Private racialization included accounts of events that took place at home, primarily consisting of racist joking, derogatory comments, and family storytelling. Public racialization consisted of events that took place outside the home, most commonly at school. Data also revealed interactions between private and public realms, where accommodations were made in private to control, minimize or restrict interracial contact in public.


Race Racialization Whiteness Child socialization Race identity 


  1. Allport, G. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  2. Banton, M. (1977). The idea of race. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  3. Barot, R., & Bird, J. (2001). Racialization: The genealogy and critique of a concept. Race and Ethnic Studies, 24(4), 601–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benn, S. I., & Gaus, G. F. (1983). Public and private in social life. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bernal, D. D. (2002). Critical race theory, Latino critical theory, and critical raced-gendered epistemologies: Recognizing students of color as holders and creators of knowledge. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 105–126.Google Scholar
  6. Blank, R. M. (2001). An overview of trends in social and economic well-being, by race. In N. J. Smelser, W. J. Wilson, & F. Mitchell (Eds.), America becoming: Racial trends and their consequences (Vol. 1, pp. 21–39). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  7. Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bonilla-Silva, E., & Forman, T. A. (2000). “I am not a racist but…” mapping white college students’ racial ideology in the USA. Discourse and Society, 11(1), 50–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Byrne, B. (2009). Not just class: Towards an understanding of the whiteness of middle-class schooling choice. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 32(3), 424–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Castelli, L., Zogmaister, C., & Tomelleri, S. (2009). The transmission of racial attitudes within the family. Developmental Psychology, 45, 586–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Charmaz, K. (1983). The grounded theory method: An explication and interpretation. In R. M. Emerson (Ed.), Contemporary field research: A collection of readings (pp. 109–126). Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.Google Scholar
  12. Childs, E. C. (2005). Navigating interracial borders: Black-white couples and their social worlds. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Clark, W. A. V. (1992). Residential preferences and residential choices in a multiethnic context. Demography, 29, 451–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dalmage, H. M. (2000). Tripping on the color line: Black-white multiracial families in a racially divided world. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Feagin, J. R. (2000). Racist America: Roots, current realities, and future reparations. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Feagin, J. R., & O’Brien, E. (2003). White men on race: Power, privilege, and the shaping of cultural consciousness. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ferber, A. L. (1998). White man falling: Race, gender, and white supremacy. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  18. Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition (2nd Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  19. Flores, L. A. (2000). Constructing national bodies: Public argument in the English-only movement. In T. A. Hollihan (Ed.), Argument at century’s end: Proceedings of the 11th SCA/AFA conference on argumentation (pp. 436–453). Annandale, VA: National Communication Association.Google Scholar
  20. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  21. Gaertner, S. L., Dovidio, J. F., & Bachman, B. A. (1996). Revisiting the contact hypothesis: The induction of a common ingroup identity. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 20(3–4), 271–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Glaser, B. G. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity. Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press.Google Scholar
  23. Glaser, J. M., & Gilens, M. (1997). Interregional migration and political resocialization. Public Opinion Quarterly, 61, 72–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Goldberg, D. T. (1993). Racist culture: Philosophy and the politics of meaning. London: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  25. Gubrium, J. F., & Holstein, J. A. (1997). The new language of qualitative method. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Hallinan, M. T., & Williams, R. A. (1989). Interracial friendship choices in secondary schools. American Sociological Review, 54, 67–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hesse, B. (1997). White governmentality. In S. Westwood & J. Williams (Eds.), Imagining cities: Scripts, signs, memory (pp. 86–103). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Holstein, J. A., & Gubrium, J. F. (1995). The active interview. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  29. Laszlo, J. (1986). Scripts for interpersonal situations. Studia Psychologica, 28, 125–135.Google Scholar
  30. Leman, P. J., & Lam, V. L. (2008). The influence of race and gender on children’s conversations and playmate choices. Child Development, 79(5), 1329–1343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lesane-Brown, C. L. (2006). A review of race socialization within black families. Developmental Review, 26, 400–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lewis, A. E. (2003). Race in the schoolyard: Negotiating the color line in classrooms and communities. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Maher, F. A., & Tetreault, M. K. T. (1997). Learning in the dark: How assumptions of whiteness shape classroom knowledge. Harvard Education Review, 67(2), 321–349.Google Scholar
  34. Massey, D. S. (2001). Residential segregation and neighborhood conditions in U.S. metropolitan areas. In N. J. Smelser, W. J. Wilson, & F. Mitchell (Eds.), America becoming: Racial trends and their consequences (Vol. 1, pp. 391–434). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  35. McGuffey, C. S., & Lindsay, R. B. (1999). Playing in the gender transgression zone: Race, class and hegemonic masculinity in middle childhood. Gender & Society, 13(5), 608–627.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Miles, R. (1989). Racism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Miller, P. J., & Moore, B. B. (1989). Narrative conjunctions of caregiver and child: A comparative perspective on socialization through stories. Ethos, 17(4), 428–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Moore, V. A. (2003). Kids’ approaches to whiteness in racially distinct summer day camps. The Sociological Quarterly, 44(3), 505–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Newcombe, N. S., Drummey, A. B., Fox, N. A., Lie, E., & Ottinger-Alberts, W. (2000). Remembering early childhood: How much, how, and why (or why not). Current Directions in Psychological Science, 9(2), 55–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Peterson, C., Wang, Q., & Hou, Y. (2009). When I was little: Childhood recollections in Chinese and European Canadian grade school children. Child Development, 80(2), 506–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pettigrew, T. F. (1989). The nature of modern racism in the United States. Revue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale, 2, 291–303.Google Scholar
  42. Picca, L. H., & Feagin, J. R. (2007). Two-faced racism: Whites in the backstage and frontstage. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Picower, B. (2009). The unexamined whiteness of teaching: How white teachers maintain and enact dominant racial ideologies. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 12(2), 197–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Reason, R. D., & Evans, N. J. (2007). The complicated realities of whiteness: From color blind to racially cognizant. New Directions for Student Services, 120, 67–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Riessman, C. K. (1993). Narrative analysis. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  46. Schaffer, R., & Skinner, D. G. (2009). Performing race in four culturally diverse fourth grade classrooms: Silence, race talk, and the negotiation of social boundaries. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 40(3), 277–296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sigelman, L., & Welch, S. (1993). The contact hypothesis revisited: Black-white interaction and positive racial attitudes. Social Forces, 71(3), 781–795.Google Scholar
  48. Starrels, M. E., & Holm, K. E. (2000). Adolescents’ plans for family formation: Is parental socialization important? Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(2), 416–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Van Ausdale, D., & Feagin, J. R. (1996). Using racial and ethnic concepts: The critical case of very young children. American Sociological Review, 61(5), 779–793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wilson, T. C. (1986). Interregional migration and racial attitudes. Social Forces, 65(1), 177–186.Google Scholar
  51. Winant, H. (1994). Racial conditions: Politics, theory, comparisons. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  52. Zeitlin, S., Kotlin, A., & Baker, H. C. (1982). A celebration of American family folklore: Tales and traditions from the Smithsonian collection. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  53. Zisman, P., & Wilson, V. (1992). Interracial friendship choices in secondary schools. American Sociological Review, 54, 67–78.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shannon K. Carter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Leslie H. Picca
    • 2
  • Brittany N. Murray
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA
  2. 2.University of DaytonDaytonUSA

Personalised recommendations