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White Women and the Politics of Racial Inequality

This fall, our Hutchins Conversation featured the work of Dr. Elizabeth McRae of Western Carolina University. In her book, Mothers of Massive Resistance, she shows that the somewhat mundane, everyday efforts of white women in the 1920s to 1970s allowed and continues to allow white supremacist politics to have such a strong hold on our policies, educational systems, social welfare systems, and more. This conversation was moderated by Dr. Katherine Charron of NC State, and they discussed how white women edited textbooks, protested school integration, protested busing, facilitated essay contests to justify a separated state, reported children being of mixed race, and took part in other efforts to keep a segregated state and further white supremacist politics. The full video is available here, otherwise take a moment to watch some highlights from our conversation below.


“What they believe will happen if they aren’t a good white mother is their daughters will marry someone else’s black sons.”

In this clip of our talk, White Women and the Politics of Racial Inequality, Dr. Elizabeth McRae talks how “being a good mother” became a racialized call to action for segregationist white women.


“We have to recognize that these women weren’t segregationists and political active because they were deluded about their interests, they believed that this was in their best interest.”

During this conversation, Dr. Elizabeth McRae also addressed the common notion that white women, through voting for conservative candidates that would otherwise seem to enforce policies that do not support their well-being, are in fact voting in what they have decided in their best interest. Furthermore, she addresses that women’s political consciousness is not monolithic and that someone women care about what is best for their children.

Watch the full video of our conversation with Dr. McRae here.

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