Date of Award

Spring 2001

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Goldzwig, Steven R.

Second Advisor

Turner, Lynn H.

Third Advisor

Shuter, Robert M.

Abstract

Whiteness, as a construct, refers to the unearned privileges afforded to whites at the expense of nonwhites maintained in our society's institutions, predominantly remaining nameless. Whiteness theory, critical in nature, evaluates and names the characteristics of white privilege, in a larger antiracism effort, directed toward decreasing or "decentering" norms and standards that are generated and maintained by whites. However whiteness studies offers the opportunity for whites to participate in the dismantling of privileged power, along with the diligent efforts, past and present, of scholars of color. A critical framework to evaluate whiteness within public discourse is applied to editorials and news coverage of the "niggardly" incident that occurred in Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams's office in 1999. A white, gay, male, David Howard, used the word "niggardly" in a staff meeting with African American colleagues in reference to the need to manage the city's budget. Media coverage of the event was widespread and the nation engaged in a debate surrounding cultural sensitivity, "political correctness," words, their meanings intended and unintended, as well as an ongoing critique of the Mayor's decision to rehire Howard in another position. The newly developed critical framework, informed by whiteness theory, engages an effort to name and analyze the characteristics of privileged power through an evaluation of a sample of both African American and majority press coverage.

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