College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Women & Gender Studies


anti-racist feminisms, white identity development, sacred activism, racial justice, social justice movements


Anti-racist white activists have actively participated within movements for racial justice in the United States, in both the pre-and post-civil rights era. Inspired by the voices, work and leadership of people of color, as well as through multiracial coalition building, anti-racist white activism has taken many forms over the years. In some instances, this activism has involved educating and engaging with other white people in examining their white privilege and strategies for accountability, as a means for incorporating an awareness of whiteness and privilege into their multiracial social justice organizing. This thesis examines the stories of present-day white anti-racists in Chicago and explores the myriad ways that they have come to develop an anti-racist consciousness and what personal work is required to bring their full selves to the fight for racial justice. Using an anti-racist feminist framework, I weave together theoretical scholarship with the narratives and dialogue from participants of two focus groups I conducted with white anti-racist activists in their 20s and 30s here in Chicago. I argue that while whites growing up in homogenous white communities may be able to develop a progressive political analysis from their parents or other community influences, an in-depth consciousness around racial justice can only be fostered through a multiracial “geography” of locations, relationships and belonging. Additionally, developing an anti-racist consciousness as a white person requires attending to the emotional wounds caused by an awareness of their complicity in white supremacy. These emotional wounds can be attended to through conversations with other white anti-racist people, re-connecting with their cultural roots and coming to understand themselves as complex beings with multiple identities.