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‘It’s different for guys’: Gendered narratives of racial conflict among white California youth


As race talk has gained attention throughout the social sciences, sociocultural linguistics has become crucial in revealing how racial ideologies and identities are discursively produced. This article examines how race talk may reproduce racial binaries while perpetuating gender ideologies. Drawing on ethnographically collected narratives of conflict at an ethnoracially divided California high school, the analysis examines three discursive practices of racial reversal whereby white youth portray themselves as disadvantaged vis-a-vis their black peers: claims of ‘reverse discrimination’, narratives of racialized fear, and fight stories. Whereas white girls’ narratives relied on racial vagueness, white boys’ narratives highlighted racial difference, contrastive strategies that indicate the different racial stakes for white girls versus white boys at the school. The article demonstrates the necessity of examining race talk not only for its content but also for its discursive structure, its ethnographic and interactional context, its co-construction by the researcher, and its ideological effects.

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