The Whiteness Pandemic Behind the Racism Pandemic: Familial Whiteness Socialization in Minneapolis Following #GeorgeFloyd’s Murder

Gail M. Ferguson, Lauren Eales, Sarah Gillespie, Keira Leneman

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24 Scopus citations


Family socialization into the centuries-old culture of Whiteness—involving colorblindness, passivity, and fragility—perpetrates and perpetuates U.S. racism, reflecting an insidious Whiteness pandemic. As a poignant case study, this mixed methods study examined Whiteness socialization among White mothers (N = 392, M = 37.99 years, SD = 4.34) in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the month following the May 2020 police killing of unarmed Black resident, George Floyd. Using Helms’ (1984, 2017)White racial identity development theory (WRID), content analyses of qualitative responses classified participants into lower versus higher levels of WRID, after which thematic analyses compared their Whiteness socialization beliefs/values, attitudes, practices, and emotions, and analyses of variance compared their demographics, multiculturalism, and psychological distress. There was strong convergence across qualitative and quantitative findings and results aligned with theWRID model. Racially silent participants (i.e., no mention of Floyd’smurder or subsequent events on open-ended questions: 53%) had lower multiculturalism scores and lower psychological distress. Among mothers who were racially responsive (i.e., mentioned Floyd’s murder or subsequent events: 47%), those with more advanced WRID (17%) had higher multiculturalism scores; lower ethnic group protectiveness scores; a more effective coping style featuring empathy, moral outrage, and hope; more color and power-conscious socialization beliefs/values; and more purposeful racial socialization practices than their less advanced peers (30%).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-361
Number of pages18
JournalAmerican Psychologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 19 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Data collection was supported by funds awarded to Gail M. Ferguson by the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota. Lauren Eales was supported by a predoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under Award T32 MH015755, Sarah Gillespie was supported by a Provost Research Fellowship from the University of Minnesota, and Keira Leneman was supported by an Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship from the University of Minnesota. The content is the sole responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the University of Minnesota. We thank the participants for their time and Tori Simenec, Shelby Smoyer, Dalicia Simpson, and Zaina Ramoni for their research assistance. We also express gratitude to Dr. Jacqueline Nguyen and Dr.Moin Syed for very helpful comments on a draft of this article

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Psychological Association


  • Antiracism
  • Black lives matter
  • Racial socialization
  • Racism
  • White racial identity


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