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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“My Feelings Are Not About You”: Personal Experience as a Move of Whiteness


The concept of speaking from experience in order to prevent universalized claims and maintain awareness of positionality has figured prominently in educational practices oriented toward social justice. History has taught us, however, that any resistive practice can come to serve the very interests it was developed to oppose. This paper examines one such situation: In interracial discussions of racism, White participants in our study used the discourse of personal experience to inoculate their racial claims against interrogation or critique. Our goals in analyzing the use of this discourse are to explicate how it functioned to hold white privilege in place, and to unsettle the discursive authority that this discourse offers. We conclude with suggestions for buffering the impact of experience discourse as a move of whiteness.

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