White racial and ethnic identity in the United States

Monica McDermott, Frank L. Samson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

216 Scopus citations


This review examines research on white racial and ethnic identity, paying special attention to developments in whiteness studies during the past decade. Although sociologists have long focused on white ethnic identity, considerations of white racial identity are more recent. White racial identity is commonly portrayed as a default racial category, an invisible yet privileged identity formed by centuries of oppression of nonwhite groups. Whiteness has become synonymous with privilege in much scholarly writing, although recent empirical work strives to consider white racial identity as a complex, situated identity rather than a monolithic one. The study of white racial identity can greatly benefit from moving away from simply naming whiteness as an overlooked, privileged identity and by paying closer attention to empirical studies of racial and ethnic identity by those studying social movements, ethnic identity, and social psychology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-261
Number of pages17
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Race awareness
  • Racism
  • Whiteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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