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Racial Illiteracies and Whiteness: Exploring Black Mixed-Race Narrations of Race in the Family

Campion, K. ORCID: 0000-0002-8501-6479 & Lewis, C. (2022). Racial Illiteracies and Whiteness: Exploring Black Mixed-Race Narrations of Race in the Family. Genealogy, 6(3), article number 58. doi: 10.3390/genealogy6030058


Drawing upon fifty-five interviews with Black mixed-race people located in Britain’s second-largest city, Birmingham, and a nearby satellite town, Bromsgrove, this article critically explores how race, identity, and whiteness, are negotiated in mixed-race families. Whilst existing studies tend to centre upon the experiences of white parents raising their children, in this article, we foreground Black mixed-race perspectives of familial practices. Whiteness can often function as an ever-present non-presence in explorations of mixed identities. We utilise concepts such as white fragility, white complicity and the white gaze to make whiteness visible and to address how racial illiteracies can manifest within everyday family settings. In doing so, we suggest that white family members can, on occasion, participate in processes of white domination even in the smallest everyday acts and conversations that deny, avoid, dismiss and, in some cases, even perpetuate racism. By identifying these moments in Black mixed-race lives, we complicate some of the studies that document the racial literacies of white parents and explore how mistakes are made. We suggest that these encounters can create moments of disjuncture in familial settings that are characterised by a complex layer of love, intimacy and racial difference. By bringing these issues to the fore, we centre the emotional labour it can take on the part of Black mixed-race people to make sense of and resist these experiences whilst simultaneously maintaining closeness within familial relationships.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
Publisher Keywords: mixed-race; family; whiteness; black mixed-race; identity; racial illiteracies; racism; critical mixed-race studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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