“I had Missionary Grandparents for Christ’s Sakes!”: White Women in Transracial/Cultural Families Bearing Witness to Whiteness

Willow Samara Allen


White women have occupied a distinct position in histories of White supremacy. With the rise of White supremacist discourses in this current epoch, I posit now is a critical time to examine how White women can bear witness to their Whiteness and to ask what role they want to play in creating a more equitable future. I take up these considerations by drawing on interview data from a qualitative study of ten White women in transracial/cultural families with Black African partners to analyze how the participants conceptualize their Whiteness and how they can make connections between their subjectivities and histories of colonialism. The women’s articulations reveal that through new relational and spatial experiences across multiple forms of difference, White women can develop a changing relationship to Whiteness and what it represents in neocolonial spaces on the African continent, the Canadian settler colonial context, and within their own familial histories and relationships. Findings suggest that for White women to witness the historical weight of their Whiteness, forming linkages between their lives and broader political, economic, and social conditions of inequity is necessary. I argue White women need to create spaces of critical engagement, such as the spaces created in the study, where they can begin to imagine themselves as different racialized subjects.


White women; Whiteness; White supremacy; multiracial families; racism; colonialism

Full Text:



Aanerud, R. (2014). Humility and whiteness: “How did I look without seeing, hear without listening?” In G. Yancey (Ed.), White self-criticality beyond antiracism: How does it feel to be a White problem? (pp.101-113). London, UK: Lexington Books.

Allen, W. (2017a). White Euro-Canadian women in transracial/cultural families: Lived experiences of race (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.

Allen, W. S. (2017b). Contemplating antiracist mothering in the lives of White women in multiracial

families. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, 8(1-2), 13-28.

Anderson, L.V. (2016). White women sold out the sisterhood and the world by voting for Trump. Slate.com. April 9. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2016/11/09/white women_sold_out_thesisterhood_and_the_world_by_voting_for_trump.html

Augenstein, D. (2016). Paradise lost: Sovereign state interest, global resource exploitation and the politics of human rights. European Journal of International Law, 27(3), 669-691.

Berlak, A. (2004). Confrontation and pedagogy: Cultural secrets, trauma, and emotion in antioppressive

pedagogies. In M. Boler (Ed.), Democratic dialogue in education: Troubling speech, disturbing silence (pp. 123-144). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Boudreau Morris, K. (2017). Decolonizing solidarity: cultivating relationships of discomfort.

Settler Colonial Studies, 7(4), 456-473.

Britton, J. (2013). Researching white mothers of mixed-parentage children: The significance of

investigating whiteness. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(8), 1311-1322.


Bonsu, S. K. (2009). Colonial images in global times: Consumer interpretations of Africa and Africans in advertising. Consumption Markets & Culture, 12(1), 1-25. doi:10.1080/10253860802560789

Boshkova, G , Shastina, E , Shatunova, O . (2018). The Role of Grandparents in the Child's Personality Formation (on the Material of Children's Literature). Journal of Social Studies Education Research, 9 (2), 283-294. Retrieved from http://dergipark.org.tr/jsser/issue/37944/438298

Bush, B. (2016) Feminising empire? British women's activist networks in defending and challenging empire from 1918 to decolonisation. Women’s History Review, 25(4), 499-519.


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). (2011). True love or marriage fraud? The Passionate Eye CBC Television. September 9. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1636917282

Carter, S. (1997). Capturing women: The manipulation of cultural imagery in Canada’s prairie west.

Montreal, QC: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Chaudhuri, N., & Strobel, M. (1992). Western women and imperialism: Complicity and resistance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Chilton, L. (2016). Female immigrants and the Canadian State, 1860s through the 20thcentury. Canadian History: Post Confederation, 233-235.

Comeau, L. (2015). Re-inscribing whiteness through progressive constructions of “the problem” in anti racist education. In D. E. Lund & P. R. Carr (Eds.), Revisiting the Great White North? (pp. 179-188). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Sense Publishers. doi:10.1007/978962098695_022

Creese, G. L. (2011). The new African diaspora in Vancouver: Migration, exclusion, and belonging.

Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Creese, G. L. (2018). “Where are you from?” Racialization, belonging and identity among second-generation African-Canadians. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 1-19. doi:10.1080/01419870.2018.1484503

Dalmage, H. M. (2000). Tripping on the color line: Black-white multiracial families in a racially divided world. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press.

de Costa, R., & Clark, T. (2016). On the responsibility to engage: Non-Indigenous peoples in settler states. Settler Colonial Studies, 6(3), 191-208.

Deliovsky, K. (2008). Normative white femininity: Race, gender and the politics of beauty. Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice 33(1), 49 59.

Deliovsky, K. (2010). White femininity: Race, gender & power. Black Point, N.S: Fernwood.

DeVault, M. L., & Gross, G. (2012). Feminist interviewing: Experience, talk, and knowledge. In S. N. Hesse-Biber (Ed.), Handbook of feminist research: Theory and praxis (2nd ed., pp. 206-236). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Elum, Z. A., Mopipi, K., & Henri-Ukoha, A. (2016). Oil exploitation and its socioeconomic effects on the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 23(13), 12880-12889.

Etchells, M. J., Deuermeyer, E., Liles, V., Meister, S., Suarez, M. I., & Chalklen, W. L. (2017). White male privilege: An intersectional deconstruction. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 4(2), 13-27.

Etherington, M. (2019). The Challenge with Educational Transformation. Journal of Culture and Values in Education, 2(1), 96-112. Retrieved from http://cultureandvalues.org/index.php/JCV/article/view/33

Felman, S., & Laub, D. (1992). Testimony: Crises of witnessing in literature, psychoanalysis, and history. New York, NY: Routledge.

Frankenberg, R. (1993). White women, race matters: The social construction of whiteness. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Frankenberg, R. (Ed.). (1997). Displacing whiteness: Essays in social and cultural criticism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Gallagher, C. A. (2000). White like me? Methods, meaning, and manipulation in the field of White studies. In F. W. Twine & J. W. Warren (Eds.), Racing research, researching race:

Methodological dilemmas in critical race studies, (pp. 67-92). New York, NY: New York University Press.

Gökarıksel, B., Neubert, C., & Smith, S. (2019). Demographic fever dreams: Fragile masculinity and

population politics in the rise of the global right. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 44(3), 561-587.

Harman, V. (2010). Experiences of racism and the changing nature of white privilege among lone white mothers of mixed-parentage children in the UK. Ethnic and Racial Studies 33(2), 176-194. doi:10.1080/01419870903023652

Harman, V. (2013). Social capital and the informal support networks of lone white mothers of mixed-parentage children. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 36(8), 1323-1341.

doi: 10.1080/01419870.2013.752100

Hearn, J. (2002). The 'invisible' NGO: US evangelical missions in Kenya. Journal of Religion in Africa 32(1), 32-60.

Heindl, M. (2018). Inquiry-based Learning and its Possibilities for Primary Schools with fewer Digital Resources: A Qualitative Study. Pedagogical Research, 3(3), 12. https://doi.org/10.20897/pr/3932

hooks, b. (1995). Killing rage: Ending racism (1st ed.). New York, NY: H. Holt and Co.

Johnstone, M. (2018). Settler feminism, race making, and early social work in Canada. Affilia, 33(3), 331-345.

Knapman, C. (1986). White women in Fiji 1835-1930: The ruin of empire? London, UK: Allen & Unwin.

Koutonin, M. R. (2015). Why are White people expats when the rest of us are immigrants?

The Guardian. March 13. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/mar/13/white-people-expats-immigrants-migration

Kouritzin, S. G. (2016). Mothering across colour lines: Decisions and dilemmas of White birth mothers of mixed-race children. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 37(8), 735-747.

Lather, P. (2003). Issues of validity in openly ideological research: Between a rock and a soft place. In Y. S. Lincoln, & N. K. Denzin (Eds.), Turning points in qualitative research: Tying knots in a handkerchief, (pp. 185-215). Oxford, UK: AltaMira Press.

Lett, P. (2016). White women voted for Trump. Now what? The New York Times. November 10. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/10/opinion/whitewomen-votedtrump nowwhat.html

Lowman, E., & Barker, A. (2015). Settler: Identity and colonialism in 21st century Canada. Halifax: NS: Fernwood Publishing.

Luke, C. (1994). White women in interracial families: Reflections on hybridization, feminine identities, and racialized othering. Gender Issues 14(2), 49-72.

Macdonald, C. (2015). A Woman of Good Character: Single women as immigrant settlers in nineteenth century New Zealand. Wellington: NZ: Bridget Williams Books.

Madison, D. S. (2005). Critical ethnography: Method, ethics, and performance. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Manji, F., & O'Coill, C. (2002). The missionary position: NGOs and development in Africa. International Affairs, 78(3), 567-584. doi:10.1111/14682346.00267

Matias, C. E., & Mackey, J. (2016). Breakin’ down whiteness in antiracist teaching: Introducing critical whiteness pedagogy. The Urban Review, 48(1), 32-50.

Mayer, R. (2002). Artificial Africas: Colonial images in the times of globalization. Hanover, NH: Dartmouth College.

McMahon, J. M., & Kahn, K. B. (2018). When sexism leads to racism: Threat, protecting women, and racial bias. Sex Roles, 78(9-10), 591-605.

McRae, E. G. (2018). Mothers of massive resistance: White women and the politics of White supremacy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Meyer, M. (2001). Between theory, method, and politics: Positioning of the approaches to CDA. In R. Wodak, & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis (pp. 14-31). London, UK: Sage Publications.

McIntosh, P. (1989). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Peace and Freedom 49(4): 10-12.

Mills, C. W. (2003). White supremacy as sociopolitical system: A philosophical perspective. In A. W. Doane, & E. Bonilla-Silva (Eds.), White out: The continuing significance of racism (pp. 35-48). New York, NY: Routledge.

Moon, D. (1999). White enculturation and bourgeois ideology: The discursive production of “good (white) girls”. In T.K. Nakayama, & J. N. Martin (Eds.), Whiteness: The communication of social identity (pp. 77-197). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Najmi, S., & Srikanth, R. (2002). White women in racialized spaces: Imaginative transformation and ethical action in literature. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Nguyen, V. T. (2018). Women and water management: A case study from the rural communities in Vietnam. American Journal of Qualitative Research, 2(1), 118-161.

Okolie, A. (2005). Towards an anti-racist research framework: The case for interventive in-depth

interviewing. In G. J. S. Dei, & G. S. Johal (Eds.), Critical issues in antiracist research

methodologies (pp. 241-267). New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Okpewho, I., & Nzegwu, N. (Eds.). (2009). The new African diaspora. Bloomington, IN: Indiana

University Press.

Pickles, K. (2002). Female Imperialism and the national identity: Imperial order daughters of the empire.

Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Rauktis, M. E., Fusco, R.A., Goodkind, S., & Bradley-King, C. (2016). Motherhood in liminal spaces: White mothers’ parenting Black/White children. Affilia, 31(4), 434-449.

Razack, S. (2000). Gendered racial violence and spatialized justice: The murder of Pamela George. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 15(02), 91-130.

Regan, P. (2010). Unsettling the settler within: Indian residential schools, truth telling, and Reconciliation in Canada. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Reisigl, M., & Wodak, R. (2005). Discourse and discrimination: Rhetorics of racism and antisemitism.

London, UK: Routledge.

Robinson-Wood, T. L. (2015). The relevance of non colorblind talk between White women and non-white children in the United States: A discussion. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, 6(4-1), 646-661.

Rubin, D.I. (2018). The muddy waters of multicultural acceptance: A qualitative case study on antisemitism and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 5(1), 1-15.

Rutherdale, M., & Pickles, K. (2014). Contact zones: Aboriginal and settler women in Canada’s colonial past. Vancouver, BC: UBC Press.

Ruiz-Grossman, S. (2016). Dear fellow white women: We f**ked this up. The Huffington Post. November 9. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/dear-whitewomenwe-messedthis-upelection2016_us_582341c9e4b0aac62488970e

Said, E. W. (1978). Orientalism (1st ed.). New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

San Martin, R., & Barnoff, L. (2004). Let them howl: The operation of imperial subjectivity and the politics of race in one feminist organization. Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice, 29(1), 77-84.

Saunders, R. A. (2019). Reimagining the colonial wilderness: ‘Africa’, imperialism and the geographical legerdemain of the Vorrh. Cultural Geographies, 26(2), 177-194.


Schick, C. (2014). White resentment in settler society. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 17(1), 88-102.

Schick, C., & St. Denis. (2003). What makes anti-racist pedagogy in teacher education difficult? Three popular ideological assumptions. Alberta Journal of Educational Research 49(1), 55–69.

Simon, R. I. (2000). The paradoxical practice of Zakhor: Memories of “What has never been my fault or my deed”. In R. Simon, S. Rosenberg, & C. Eppert (Eds.), Between hope and despair:

Pedagogy and the remembrance of historical trauma (pp. 9-25). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, Inc.

Snell, R. A. (2018). “God, home, and country”: Women, historical memory, and national identity in English Canada and the United States. American Review of Canadian Studies, 48(2), 244-255.

Stone, D. J., & Dolbin-MacNab, M. (2017). Racial socialization practices of White mothers raising Black White biracial children. Contemporary Family Therapy, 39(2), 97-111. doi:10.1007/s10591-01794061

Thobani, S. (2007). Exalted subjects: Studies in the making of race and nation in Canada. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.

Tuck, E., & Yang, K. (2012). Decolonization is not a metaphor. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 1-40.

Twikirize, J. M. (2017). Social work practice in the NGO sector in Uganda and Kenya. In Mel Gray

(Ed.), The Handbook of Social Work and Social Development in Africa (pp. 367 –381). New York, NY: Routledge.

Twine, F. W. (2010). A white side of black Britain: Interracial intimacy and racial literacy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

van der Westhuizen, C. (2019). ‘Afrikaner women’ and strategies of whiteness in postapartheid South Africa. In E. Kindinger, & M. Schmitt (Eds.), The Intersections of Whiteness (ch. 8). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Van Kerckhove, C. (n.d). How to be an anti-racist parent: Real-life parents share real life tips. New York, NY: New Demographic. Retrieved from



Verbian, C. (2006). White birth mothers of black/white biracial children: Addressing racialized discourses in feminist and multicultural literature. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement, 8(1), 213-222.

Walcott, R. (2003). Black Like Who? Writing Black Canada (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: Insomniac Press.

Ware, V. (2015). Beyond the pale: White women, racism, and history. Brooklyn, NY: Verso.

Wetherell, M., & Potter, J. (1992). Mapping the language of racism: Discourse and the legitimation of exploitation. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Wodak, R. (2001). What CDA is about - a summary of its history, important concepts and its developments. In R. Wodak, & M. Meyer (Eds.), Methods of critical discourse analysis (pp. 1-13). London, UK: Sage Publications.

Wood, L. A., & Kroger, R. O. (2000). Doing discourse analysis: Methods for studying action in talk and text. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Yusuf, H. O. (2018). Colonialism and the dilemmas of transitional justice in Nigeria. International Journal of Transitional Justice, 12(2), 257-276.

Yusuf, H. O., & Omoteso, K. (2016). Combating environmental irresponsibility of TNCs in Africa: An empirical analysis. Local Environment: International Journal of Justice and Sustainability 21(11), 1372-1386.

Zembylas, M. (2018). Affect, race, and white discomfort in schooling: decolonial strategies for ‘pedagogies of discomfort’. Ethics and Education, 13(1), 86-104.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.29333/ejecs/228


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies E-ISSN: 2149-1291

Copyright © Center for Ethnic and Cultural Studies (CECS) Publishing Inc.

To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the 'ejecs.org' domain to your e-mail 'safe list'. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders.

SCImago Journal & Country Rank EBSCO HostCrossRef DOI – EScience Press

upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1d/Gal... ICI Journals Master Listerihplus hashtag on TwitterProQuest (@ProQuest) | Twitter