University of Minnesota
Driven to Discover

Diversity Dialogues hosts Tim Lensmire 11/24: White Men's Racial Others

Timothy Lensmire

Diversity Dialogues hosts Tim Lensmire, associate professor in Curriculum and Instruction.

Tuesday 11/24/2009
12:00 p.m. - 1 p.m.
40 Peik Hall
Please bring a bag lunch if you like!

White Americans have, from the first, hopelessly confused the real Negroes and Indians, with whom they must for the sake of social survival and civil peace learn to live, with certain projections of their own deepest minds, aspects of their own psychic life with which precisely they find it impossible to live. —Leslie Fiedler

For the four white men who are the focus of this talk, the production of their own racial identities was intimately tied up with their relations to real and imagined racial others. I first share a theoretical framework that illuminates just how important racial others have been for the meaning- and self-making of white people throughout US history. Then, I discuss the larger interview study in which the four men participated, before turning to my interpretation of their interviews with me.

In the lives of these men, people of color, real and imagined, divided factions of families and churches against one another. People of color were integral to moral lessons they learned as boys—positive lessons about fairness and respect in athletics, negative lessons about hypocrisy (as they listened to their elders accuse Indians of drunkenness and stealing even as they watched these same white elders drink and steal). These men used people of color, imagined and real, to understand themselves and their powers—how smart they were, how good, how tough. People of color were integral to their efforts to find a place among the racist and democratic meanings and values of their community, society, and world.

Diversity Dialogues: monthly gatherings sponsored by the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. Each features a presentation by faculty, staff, student, or community members. Time is allotted for conversation.

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