Choosing Gender or Race: Portraits of Female, White Ally Higher Education Administrators Committed to Making Socially Just Spaces for BIPOC Women in their Institutions

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Southern New Hampshire University
Racism in the U.S. is systemic and has relied on centuries of deliberate practice to create a White male hegemonic (White supremacist) power structure. Being systemic, racism is reproduced in all of our defining institutions, including higher education. In addition, White women have consistently contributed to the reproduction of racism by choosing race and enduring sexism in all areas of society, including higher education. However, there are women in academe who choose to deliberately be antiracist and actively seek to create socially just spaces for women of color in their institutions. Filling a gap in the literature related to female White ally higher education administrators, this study inquires into the experiences of five female higher education administrators identified through Community Nomination (Foster, 1991; Ladson-Billings, 1989) as White allies by Black women. Through extensive interviewing and via Portraiture methodology (Lawrence-Lightfoot & Davis, 1997) these women revealed the “goodness” of their work as they talked about themselves as 1) aspiring allies, 2) women in higher education, and 3) human beings in this world. Themes that emerged from the creation of the portraits mirror the extant literature on allyship, including 1) allyship is a continuous journey, 2) effective allyship requires humility and curiosity, and 3) being a White ally should be a moral obligation for anyone with White privilege. Filtered through the theoretical framework of Patricia Hill Collins’s Black Feminist Epistemology (2002), this study harnesses the power of storytelling and honors the thinking and scholarship of women of color. Keywords: racism, sexism, female White ally, higher education, Portraiture, Black Feminist Epistemology, Community Nomination.