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Biography of Author

Jeff Hitchcock happened to be born white in America, a fact he failed to dwell upon for much of his first forty years. After stints in academia, selling life insurance, loading trucks, working in the nonprofit world, and spending seven years on Wall Street as a corporate manager of computer systems, he awoke one day to find himself interracially married (since 1982) to a black feminist sociologist, the father of two children of color, and working for a minority-owned diversity consulting firm. These happenstance circumstances raised some soul searching questions before him, and he began to ask where he fit in the race and gender dynamics being bantered about in his life. Some research proved to him that other white men and women had asked this question, but few people, even diversity consultants and sociologists, seemed to know about it.

Still, he never thought himself much of an expert on racial concerns until his mentor and employer, an Afro-Puerto Rican-Cuban woman named Cessie Alfonso, told him he was “living it.” The “it” was a multiracial lifestyle.

He always imagined he might retire and start an institute to help improve race relations, but then decided, “Why wait?” With his life partner and wife, Charley Flint, he co-founded The Center for the Study of White American Culture in 1995. Currently he is the Executive Director. He is also active in the multiracial community as former president of GIFT (Getting Interracial Families Together) of Montclair. Somewhere along the way he fortunately acquired a Masters degree in social psychology (Rutgers) and a second Masters degree, in business administration (NYU). Having done so, he frequently applies the knowledge gained from his studies to his work.

Author's Statement

Several years ago I was struck by the need for a manual that well-meaning white people could use to explore their relationship as racial (and racialized) beings in a multiracial society. Many other articles and books were available. Some advised white people how to become antiracist. An uncounted number discussed race in comparative, "black/white," terms in which whiteness was implicitly held to be the norm. Several works emerging from the incipient white studies movement went further, critiquing whiteness itself as something particular and specific, not the invisible norm it claimed to be. Still other works described the development of white racial identity. All this was wonderful and worthy.

But nowhere could I find the sort of book I felt would resonate with me. Not simply the me of now, the year 2002. Also like the me of 20 years ago, a good hearted, but naïve liberal white (male) who believed strongly in social justice but lacked the awareness of his own privilege and how his own experience was deeply shaped by being white. That young man had to learn his lessons the hard way, bit by bit, through confrontation, painful introspection, and absorption of many of the materials mentioned above. It was a lonely journey, and truth be told, that's how it is for us white folks. Our cultural supports fail us here. Living a life of subconscious privilege is relatively easy. Learning to see that privilege and how to occasionally step outside of it is not. So I wrote the book.

The book is a guide to self-discovery and awareness for white people who live and work in multiracial settings. One thing I find mildly disturbing is white people who try to write about whiteness as if they stand entirely outside it. Though some may claim to be striving for objectivity, I suspect an element of self-hatred informs their stance as well. That's my personal, insider's view on the matter, and I incorporate that insider's view in the book. Some of the material is autobiographical, offering signposts from my own journey. My sympathies go to the white person who is learning to deal personally with his or her own whiteness. Some of us more experienced white people who have made that journey need to offer our support to those still struggling on the way.

Many of us do offer that support, and I've tried to bring that into view as well. Among white people who have become aware of their whiteness and used that awareness to work toward a multiracial society, there is considerable concern for helping other white people through their individual journeys. I've made an effort to draw upon material and to mention people who were pioneers in white awareness. This is a book whose intent is not to reinvent the wheel, but rather to turn from the process of reinvention and look toward a time when wheels become commonplace.

People of color may wonder where they fit within this book, either topically in the content or within the mind of the author as an audience. It's impossible to write a book about race and whiteness without incorporating some content about other racial groups. Because much of my personal experience with people other than white has been with black people, there is a decided "black/white" flavor to portions of the book. But I've incorporated material concerning other racial groups as well. Still, it is a book about white people, intentionally so, and that is where the focus lies.

The reader of color, I imagine, may find a good portion of the material familiar in some general way. Things that disrupt and refocus white consciousness sometimes pass as common sense knowledge in various cultures of color. At the very least, the book tells its story from the standpoint of a self-aware white person struggling with his own whiteness. There are, I believe, some insights into whiteness that can not be entirely discerned from the other side of the color line. And white people have done a poor job articulating our experience. I've tried not to further that trend.

For all readers of whatever color the book contains ample documentation of source material, including extensive notes and a detailed index. One overriding aim of this project was to assemble as much material in as much detail from as broad a spectrum as possible, and convey it in straight-forward, engaging, and simple terms. The first three chapters offer white people a gentle view of how they might become engaged in working and living in a multiracial world. The fourth chapter looks at colorblindness as the dominant racial philosophy in white culture. Following this are chapters on history, culture, psychology, white studies, and white awareness as expressed outside the academy. The book ends with a discussion of the Center's model for decentering whiteness and fostering multiracial community building.

This is a book whose primary aim is to demonstrate to the average educated audience of white people that whiteness, white culture, white identity and white experience comprise a reality they can no longer ignore. Read it for yourself. Recommend it to your colleagues. Adopt it as a supplemental text for a college course, diversity seminar, or in-service training. Buy it for a white friend who is struggling with his or her own whiteness and needs a little help on the way.