How I came to be white, my facts of whiteness

The following autobiography examines 3 keys moments in my life. The first section deals with the first 20 or so years, from my early childhood growing up in the Fabrizi household. Here, an attempt shall be made to situate the formations of control that worked together to inform and direct me to fit in and operate within white British society (Foucault, 1970, 1979). Roman Catholicism is arguably the root within which my familial and educational experiences are embedded. It has infused much of what I believe makes up my sense of self and as such deserves examination. The area that I lived in also had an impact, exposing me to peoples and cultures that I would not have experienced if living in another part of the Country (Ullucci, 2010). The other two keys moments occurred during the 1980’s; working for Hackney Council and the death of Jamie Stewart. In many respects, it would be fair to say that I would not have known Jamie if I had not worked for Hackney and as such these two elements are interrelated. The last section brings my story up to date and briefly outlines the underlying ontological and epistemological directives that underpin this research.

hackney marshes

© Henry Grant Collection Museum of London

The first time that I really felt uncomfortable about my sense of self as a white person in relation to black people that I engaged with was when I began work, while on vacation from University, for Hackney Leisure Services in the early 1980’s. I was bombarded and challenged, taken from my comfort zone, and placed in to a sea of equal opportunities and political correctness. I remember feeling that I had better watch what I was saying or else I could be labelled a racist or a sexist. Language that I once thought OK, attitudes and behaviour that had always been acceptable, were forever challenged while I was at work.

One of the many consequences of this challenging environment was that it almost totally undermined my sense of what it meant to be white. It would be fair to say that the discourses of Equal opportunities, threaten me as a white male. I felt as if my privilege (McIntosh, 1988) was being challenged. To be white, male and working class, seemed to me back then a positive disadvantage. Everyone else, who outside of the institution of the London Borough of Hackney would have been disadvantaged by their colour, gender or sexuality, where, as it appeared to me then, in the driving seat; they did not have to watch what they said.

Fast forward some 20 years and I am standing in front of a class of AS Sociology students in Southgate College for the first time. I could feel my body temperature rise as I began the lesson, as a student asked, “Sir, why are you trying to sound like a black man?” I asked her to explain how I sounded like a black man, a builder maybe, but I had never considered myself as sounding like a black person. She then said that I had used a ‘black’ expression. I explained to her that I was unaware that I had used a ‘black’ term and then quickly went into a sociological explanation about culture and situation and moved onto the purpose of the day’s lesson.

Throughout the first few lessons that I taught there were similar instances based around notions of gender, race, sexuality etc. The learners seemed to take delight in attempting to undermine and challenge me, which I suppose is only natural, for like all first encounters with a new set of learners there was a certain amount of testing of the teacher.

Though most of us who teach will have similar stories to tell of our classroom encounters, the most striking thing that resonated with me then as now, was how easy it was for that student to unsettle me. Why should such an innocuous comment strike a nerve? Considering myself to be well informed how could I have been waylaid by one student’s remark? This became a real concern, as I embarked upon my teaching career. How could I teach if I could so easily be shaken? Had this student been perceptive enough to uncover my futile attempt at demonstrating my street credentials? Did I sound like a Blackman, and if so why? Perhaps, most importantly how did other teachers cope with such situations? These and other questions about my suitability as a teacher came flooding in, questions for which I had very little answers.

One thing that became apparent was that many of the answers I sought could be found by taking a close look at my own worldview. It became more apparent that an attempt should be made to strip bare, to be transparent, not only with myself but with others too (Pennington, 2007). If I was going to impart the love of knowledge and learning that I have to those that I teach, I would have to consider the meanings and notions that situate and frame my sense of being, facing up to the ‘truths’ of my white being.

It became more and more apparent that in the management of any classroom that I taught, confidence in who I am and where I was coming from was a key factor. Knowing oneself, being confident in whom I am seemed a key tool in negotiating daily encounters within the classroom. Yet, I was really quite unprepared.

To address this I began to seek out research about the significance of the teachers sense of self and how important this is to our management and communication in the classroom. This was something that I found little of in the PGCE course that I was on. Yes, there was particular reference made to reflecting upon each lesson and the importance of feedback, but little, if anything, about the significance and centrality of me as the manager of learning; me as a teacher, my feelings, my apprehensions and my prejudices and the privileged baggage (McIntosh, 1988) that I carried around from class to class as a white man. If I was to be the best possible teacher that I could be, I needed to find out where I was coming from, how my attitudes and opinions were formulated and how I viewed the world within which I lived.

It became important to seek out why such an innocuous comment as the one made by that student in my first lesson, could so undermine my confidence within the classroom. More particularly, I was drawn to the relationship, highlighted by the student, between my sense of a white self and its relationship to notions of blackness and how this might impact upon how I managed the classes that I taught. This for me was the most pressing of journeys and one that would hopefully make me a more able teacher. The next question that arose was where to start?

Listening to and accepting of the black gaze

‘As I write, I try to remember when the word racism ceased to be the term which best expressed for me exploitation of black people and other people of color in this society and when I began to understand that the most useful term was white supremacy’. (hooks, 1989, p.112)

I wonder how many of us white people consider ourselves to be embedded within discourses of white supremacy as suggested by hooks? From much of the research carried out in the field, not many. Further more, how many of us actually recognise our position within such a framework. Yes, racism is an abhorrent mechanism based upon constructions of informed ignorance. Yes, we should actively work to combat it in our daily work with learners; but how often do we consider an active stance, rather than a passive, watered down, shirting around political correctness one? These questions began to direct me towards considering my sense of self as I embarked upon a career in teaching. What is white supremacy and how could I, committed as I am to the promotion of left wing principles of egalitarian fairness, consider myself part of this supremacist discourse? As hooks suggest at the top of this section and has already been discussed in the previous chapters, the black gaze provided the guide that enabled me to inquire in to and reflect upon my sense of being white.

Significances, Signs and Symbols

It may seem somewhat obvious that the key moments of my life have been situated around my upbringing, my family, the primary education that I received, and the Catholic Community that infused and reinforced the discourses of control within my family and at the schools and university that I attended. Indeed, the whole area of inquiry is infused with significances, signs, and symbols that belong to a regime of truth (Foucault, 1989) that has directed and situated me. Time, place, and situation are all component parts that help construct a particular sense of self that position and have influenced who I am. If I was born to different parents, living in a different part of the country (Ullucci, 2011), at a different time, this research may have never been attempted. Though perhaps stating the obvious, by attempting to situate the motivations that drive the researcher (Feldman et al, 2003), the reader should obtain a clearer understanding of the logics and motivations that underpin the research.

‘ackney Boy


A School photograph taken c.1967: Outside the church presbytery at St. Dominic Roman Catholic Primary School, Homerton, Hackney. (The author is top row, 5th from the left)

Perhaps the first question that the reader may ask, is how or even why constructions of blackness have had such an affect upon my sense of self and my ability as a teacher? I am to some a Cockney, born within the sound of Bow Bells. I was born and lived the first thirty years of my life in the London Borough of Hackney. Hackney, then as now, was one of the most culturally diverse and poorest parts of London, with a large proportion of its population living on Council run housing estates. I lived on one of these large housing estates with my Mum, Dad and older sister. My Dad came over to England from Italy in 1931 at the age of eight. Mum was born in Stepney, East London in 1926. Throughout my childhood, there appeared to be a constant cultural friction between my parents. Mum usually saying how useless Italians were, Dad replying with something like ‘how the Romans civilized the English’. This contesting and challenging, between my parents, over the cultural capital within their household ultimately positioned my sister and me into making choices about whether we were Italian or English. More so from my Mum than my Dad, or perhaps because I spent more time with her, something akin to a propaganda war continued throughout my early childhood; opposing the good aspects of being from her side of the family, supporting it with reference to her brothers Arsenal and England football playing days and stories of the war. All of what my Mum told us was true and for that matter when we went to Italy this seemed to be reinforced. However, with the onset of age it became clear that Italy and the Italians had something quite wonderful to offer that equalled and in many respects surpassed what up until then had been an unsurpassable English hegemony.

At the same time as these domestic oppositions were being played out within the Fabrizi household, the outside world that I encountered, mediated through television and radio, growing up in the 1960’s offered excitement, wonder, and violence. The NASA space programme, the nuclear bomb and the Soviet ‘threat’, the visual bombardment beamed into our living rooms that was the Vietnam War, formed many of my early experiences of the human world outside of the small Catholic community of Homerton, Hackney. As with most children it could be argued that I was being introduced, hailed (Althusser, 1971) into position by particular discourses (Foucault, 1990) that were supported by both functions within the private world of the family and the wider public articulations of the Church, State, and the mass media.


The Twin Towers of London and Pisa

The photographs of the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster and the Leaning Tower of Pisa reflect the two main influences in my early childhood and arguably the key binary oppositions (Levi-Strassus, 1969) in the development of my sense of self. It was in my familial home that the significance of oppositions, of conflict were laid; between English and Italian, between Catholic and non-Catholic, between good democracy and bad communism, between civilised white and primitive black. Despite the constant and reaffirming articulations of certainty that were posited as moments of divine truth, there lurked an Other (Lacan, 1949). Though this Other’s function was to support the affirmation of whiteness, democracy, and Christianity, it carried with it an equally compelling set of stories, truths from ‘across the tracks’ (hooks, 1992), which offered an alternative presentation.

The philosophical logics of communism presented in the works of Marx and Engels as opposed to their ideological appropriation by state communism espoused within such regimes as the Soviet Union and Maoist China, seemed to make far more sense than the Liberal underpinnings of the likes of Adam Smith as articulated within modern liberal democratic states. The contributions of Italians to the arts, culture and science of Western Europe are as equal if not greater than those of the English. How could black people be primitive when the wonders of Great Zimbabwe, the sunken cathedrals of Ethiopia, the tales of Mali’s Mensa Munsa’s journeys to Mecca or indeed the great Pyramids of Egypt (Davidson, 1991), stood testimony for all to see, to cultures as rich and resplendent as any of those found in Western Europe or other parts of the globe?

It is this world of differing stories, of other world views, of the black gaze, that looking back began to spark my interest in, and started me on this road of self discovery. This road would lead me to places that I would have never considered as being of importance to the formation of my sense of self and equally to moments of cold and challenging reality checks of my sense of a white self. This road has also led me here, to this research project.

From an early age I can recall being with and around black people, at school, in church and as neighbours. These daily encounters, looking back now over some 50 years, nearly always had an unspoken understanding, a silent dialogue (Delpit, 1995, Dickar, 2008), in which a degree of familiarity could be engaged in but never fully realised; a black boy could be your friend but you had to be careful that he was not quite your best friend. I recall my own Father, misquoting Mohammed Ali when the subject of ‘blacks’ came up by saying something like; “I take a leaf out of Mohammed Ali’s book, ‘you don’t see birds mating with bees’’. This seemed to be more or less the attitude of most people I knew, you can be friendly, but you don’t mix with them, often framed in that old adage ‘he’s OK, he’s like one of us!’

Further, there was the notion that black people were not quite as civilised as white people. The evidence was clear to see; you only had to look at Africa and its lack of anything approaching civilised cultures. The continent of Africa in many respects was arguably viewed as one amorphous block, its people having no clear discerning characteristics; peoples and countries that occupied this African landscape being seen in much the way same. There was no particularity, such as when confusing Jamaica with representing the people of the Caribbean. Africa, its peoples and its diaspora were just one amorphous group where sameness, ‘they all look alike’, excluded any notion of difference.

Being brought up a Roman Catholic had its effects too, as I came into the world of school. The more I have thought about my early years within Roman Catholicism the more its significance and centrality to my sense of self has become apparent. Loyola’s claim to ‘give him the boy at seven and he will give you the man’, is perhaps clear testament to the overall mission of the Catholic church, or for matter any religious belief system; the subjugation of the individual and freedom of self expression.

Most of my early life was in one way or another lived within the Catholic community. School, youth clubs, attending Mass, my home, nearly every aspect of my early life was in some way touched by the Church. So it was that like many others I was always-already (Althusser, 1971) a catholic, and placed on the conveyor-belt to redemption. Confession, communion, confirmation, the 3 C’s of a catholic education, arguably formed the educational cornerstones of my schooling up until the age of 17. Along with these tenets of Roman Catholicism, it seems to me now that Pray, Mass and the Bible, that is the Holy Catholic Bible, enforced by the unquestionable authority of school staff, were embedded in the school curriculum throughout my time at primary school. At the same time in this Catholic community, no doubt because of Catholicism evangelical zeal to universally convert, my schoolmates included children, of Irish, St Lucian, Mauritan and Italian, along with what could loosely be called English stock. Teachers too, came from as far a field as Sri Lanka, Italy, and France, though whether or not Miss Smith our French teacher ever came from France up until this day I question.

“Bless me father for I have sinned”

There was another somewhat insidious, policing aspect to this Catholic education and that was the authority of the parish priests. The parish priest commanded respect from the whole Catholic community; mums, dads, neighbours, everyone gave due respect to our parish priests. There were three priests at the height of my church attending days; Father Whitney, a convert from the Church of England and head of the Parish; Father Tuck, a young buck with favourites and Father Byrne a retired missionary priest, whose fondness for a drink was put down to his missionary days in Africa. Their power seemed to reside in the confessional box. Everyone, that is all good Catholics who attended church regularly, would also receive the sacrament of confession.

Confession was held inside a box consisting of three cubicles. The priest sat in a dividing cubical between the other two. A light above the remaining two cubicles signified when you could or could not go in. Here inside this little box, sealed from the outside, you knelt while you awaited the priest. The priest would then open a small meshed window in the dividing panel between his cubical and yours into which you confessed your sins to God via the priest. Your confessor was sworn to keep your confession to himself, never betraying your sins to the outside world. Yet the fact that he ‘knew’ was all that mattered, for this panoptic knowledge placed the priest at the centre of the community, like God himself, all seeing, all knowing. As Foucault (1990) comments,

‘next to testing rituals, next to the testimony of witnesses, and the learned methods of observation and demonstration, the confession became on of the West’s most highly valued techniques for producing truth. We have since become a singularly confessing society. The confession has spread its effects far and wide. It plays a part in justice, medicine, education, family relationships, and love relations, in the most ordinary affairs of everyday life, and in the most solemn rites: one confesses one’s crimes, one’s sins, one’s thoughts and desires, one’s illnesses and troubles; one goes about telling, with the greatest precision, what is most difficult to tell.” (Foucault: 1990, p.59)

As I reflect, the discourse of confession, an act of contrition, makes it easy, almost imperative for me to examine my sense of self. For after all, is that not what confession is about, a bearing of one’s soul? Accepting Foucault’s observations, it would seem that I was prepared for this search in to the truth of my being. I automatically gave over to this directive to confess. Indeed, was this Catholic upbringing the reason behind this search for my sense of whiteness?

In spite of this all pervading discourse of confession, my friends and I, quite quickly, as I suspect most Catholics do, began to make up our confessions. Swearing, watching a porn film, looking at girls, became common stock declarations to our confessors. This tactic of avoidance, of not wanting the priest to know your real thoughts and actions, was, looking back the beginning of my questioning the order of things (Foucault, 1970). This questioning of the authority of the church began to be reinforced by the actions of the priests themselves, who often said one thing and did another. It would be fair to say that there was probably more preaching than practising by the priests.

Because of this good Catholic primary education I was able to go to the same secondary school as my sister, despite the fact that I could hardly read or write. At the time of my entrance, Cardinal Pole was a Secondary Modern school, though by my third year it had became a Comprehensive. By the time I left Cardinal Pole I had gone from barely being able to read and write to getting ‘A’ levels and going on to University. Whether or not it was the already good pedagogic practices of the school (even as a secondary modern it had a small sixth form where students could study for ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels) or the fact that it became a comprehensive school while I was there, or whether it was the underlying Catholic work ethic, I do not know. What I can recall was the quality of some of the teaching, which provided me with the confidence and ability to learn. This was offset by some of the most brutal acts of corporal punishment executed by other members of staff, whose classes I feared.

I owe a lot to the teaching I received and the teachers who taught as I progressed through to the fifth year and beyond. There appeared to be a conflict between Catholic morality and the ability to engage learners to think and question. A good example of this arguable conflict of interest was the way in which we were taught ‘A’ level history. I can only assume that, like me, our history teacher, Mr Burns, chose subject areas to teach that interested him. The course was divided into two areas, the Reformation and British Social history from 1700 to 1914. What perhaps was most outstanding was the way we were taught the Reformation. The Catholic Church of the late middle ages was portrayed ‘warts ‘n’ all’, as corrupt and politically ambitious. The Protestants, in particular, Martin Luther, were presented as people who had a valid point of view. We were encouraged not to accept ‘facts’ from anyone one source and though given textbooks, we were always encouraged to constantly question what was written in them. It was this encouragement to question, set in the context of growing up in a richly diverse community that set the backdrop for this piece of research.

Watersheds moments

There have been very few moments of epiphany in my life that have challenged my worldview; working for Hackney from the mid 1980’s and the death of Jamie Stewart in 1989 are probably the two key moments that most disrupted and challenged the earlier belief system that I inhabited and my understanding of my sense of a white self. These moments, of all the encounters that I have had over the years, either within institutions, amongst friends or the wider community, literally stopped me in my tracks. In many respects they were the counterpoint to all that had gone before. It is also interesting to note how these moments are linked and inseparable; Hackney Council challenging my belief system while the death of Jamie Stewart confirmed with certain and definite clarity the brutal vigour of the discourses of white Supremacy. It is to these two moments that we shall turn.

Hackney Council


Hackney Communist Party Rally

After leaving University in 1982 I gained employment as a community worker in the London Borough of Hackney. Working for Hackney Council when there was such a thing as a left wing political movement, even though it was far from perfect, there were attempts at what later would pejoratively be termed political correctness. Albeit because of central governments’ lack of commitment to questions of ‘race’ (Young and Connelly, 1981), Hackney council at least attempted to respond. The Council aimed, via the introduction of an Equal Opportunities Policy, to make the workforce as reflective of the local population as possible, while at the same time introduce equalities and customer care training for staff. A number of policies and initiatives aimed at making service providers aware of the differing needs of a culturally diverse community further supported the Councils’ aim of ‘working for the local community’. Within this laudable context of promoting Equal Opportunities there was the inevitable failure to live up to expectations (Jewson and Mason, 1996). Indeed it could be argued that many Hackney employees I came across over the 12 or so years I worked for the Council, held views that were far from politically correct. Of course that depended upon the type of work the person did, with social workers, human resources officers and others whose work could loosely be termed part of the caring professions being more politically aware than say those persons who were employed in the construction or sport services.

By the mid 1980’s, the Conservative Government of Margaret Thatcher was firmly into its second of three terms in office, signalling the beginnings of the end of the GLC, ILEA and the trade union movement, the introduction of Compulsory Competitive Tendering, Rate Capping, the Poll Tax, the ‘right to buy’ and the demise of Local Authority housing amongst other repressive measures; culminating arguably in the Cameron’s Coalition Government’s mantra of Big Society, heralding the final piece in the demolition of Local Government. Within this confining regime of the Thatcher Governments throughout the 1980’s Hackney Council soon lost a lot of its Equal Opportunities momentum, having to constantly make cuts to accommodate ever-decreasing revenue. Out went the Women’s, Disabled, and Race units to be replaced by an amalgamated equalities unit. The recruiting process became less strident in its quest for fairness while constant restructuring led to fewer workers and more managers. Though a rather jaundiced view of the demise of Hackney Council’s attempts at offering equal and fair access to the council, its staff, and services, the influence of being in such an environment challenged me to reconsider and re-evaluate my whole sense of self. A grand statement, but the more I have pondered the more I believe this to be so. The very simple consideration of the differing and varied needs of all communities, be it that of Disabled people, Women, Gay and Lesbian people, Black and Asian people, encouraged empathy, to be able to place yourself in another’s position was a key moment in my journey of self discovery.

While working for Hackney Council I was placed to work in a community hall on a housing estate in Upper Clapton called Wigan House. Over the course of some 8 years I encountered a side of life that I was unfamiliar with. I was a stranger in a strange town. A town swayed in diversity and where being white and male made you standout.

Though I was brought up on a large housing estate in another part of Hackney, there always seemed space; a couple of playing greens with the skyline undulating between the varying range of housing stock. Wigan House consisted of two squares with all the units facing panoptically (Foucault, 1979) inwards towards the community hall. I ran an After School Club for children between the ages of 5 to 16 years old from this hall and it is here that some of the most profound of challenges to my then worldview occurred. At first I was one of only a couple of white people in this community. The rest of the people, including the vast majority of the service users were either Black or Asian. To be more precise people of Bengali origin or people who either came from West coast Africa or the Caribbean or their decedents. Though at times there were conflicts both verbal and physical, the general reception of warmth and acceptance was undeniable. It would be true to say, that I learnt more about myself there than anywhere else before. Perhaps it was my age: I was in my mid twenties. Perhaps the whole reversal of being Other appealed or was it my exposure to people within a community setting that opened my eyes. Whatever the reasons, this experience changed my life. The missing pieces of my lived jigsaw were put in place. The edifice of all those little white lies was forever ruptured, compelling me to rethink, relearn and discover

01 07 89.

‘When it comes to black people Winston, some police in England got a licence to kill…’ (Linton Kewsi Johnson: Licence to Kill. Taken from the album More Time, 1998)

You often here people comment on where they were on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, or when Nelson Mandela was freed, or the fall of the Berlin Wall, occasions so profound that they resonate throughout ones life. In much the same way July 1st 1989 will forever remain a date that is seared into my memory. It was on that day, early in the morning, that I received a phone call from my then girlfriend telling me that her brother, Jamie Stewart, died while in police custody. The reasons for this untimely death have never been satisfactorily explained. There was an official inquiry, which found the cause of death to have been from a cocaine overdose, though how the cocaine was smuggled into the police station was never fully explained.

In the calamitous tale of relations between the police and the ‘black community’, this death was just one of many ‘accidents’ that seem to occur to black persons while in the ‘care’ of the police. However, the significance of this young man’s death, from the many others that had died, was that I knew him. I recall visiting the family home and feeling ashamed, almost apologetic, and most definitely helpless. I was part and parcel of a regime that could allow and condone such actions on the part of its police force. I must say that I was never made to feel that I was in anyway party to this act of violence, I still nonetheless felt responsible. For here, I could not hide; I could not pretend that I was not like other white people. Most importantly, I could not ignore how Jamie’s death was due to the colour of his skin, and wondered that if I were in his place would I be dead too, the answer to this is probably not.

The one comment that stands out was from an eye witness account, which claimed that one of the many ‘racist’ comments of the arresting officers, was ‘what the fuck is he…he’s’ neither black nor white!’ The vehemence, almost hatred, in which it was said, cannot be relayed on paper, at least not by this author. However, the profound, arguably overwhelming effect of this one statement, has ultimately led to this piece of research. It was difficult to comprehend, that in the late 1980’s, the colour of a person could determine how that person would be treated. This is not to say that this was the first time that notions of difference; of an almost innate prejudice: of black and white, had not been experienced and engaged with by myself, but that this statement, said in the context of the death of someone I knew, somehow captured, focused my attention.

Cathartic clarity, watershed moments, have come rarely in my life, the death of Jamie Stewart was one such rare moment. To experience almost first hand how the apparatuses of state control (Althusser, 1971) engaged in this incident, with nurses, doctors, the media and the police, singing from the same white hymn sheet, pulling together in subtle white ways, whitewashing as it were over the cracks, was something read about but not quite believed. Until then, ‘there was no smoke without fire’. After, it was hard to see any thing nearing the truth as to the circumstances surrounding Jamie’s death, through the thickness of white supremacist smoke that wafted high above Holloway police station.

The first and perhaps the most profound effect, of this lived experience, of this particular reality were to prompt self-inquiry, an investigation of interiority. What made me, as a white person, different from a black person? What could command, in such subtle and varied ways the hegemonic outcome and positioning of the fate of this young man, his unanswered, unresolved death. What part did I play in this? Was I part of the problem? Questions, I had no answers for. So here at the point of the death of Jamie Stewart, I came to realise, to consider, the relationship, the linkage between notions of black and white.

It would be true to say that the 1980’s were the decade that set me on my life’s journey, redirected, and challenged the discourses of my formative years. Since my mid teens I had struggled with the whole notion of God, religion and authority and was slowly rejecting it all. Hackney Council’s introduction to the consideration of others, my experiences in Wigan House, and the death of Jamie Stewart were arguably the cornerstones that stirred and galvanised a resolve to seek answers.


I have been in my present relationship with Juanita for over 20 years. Juanita is black. We have two children, Emilio and Sergio. I decided to include my family for a number of reasons, but primarily to make clear my own personal investment in this project, making apparent my own particular relationships with black people. As I write however, I am struck by that old adage ‘some of my best friends are black’. Am I really only, as many of us who have used this somewhat hackneyed phrase, trying to display my ‘race credentials’, to somehow qualify and illegitimate not only this investigation but my own personal relationships? The more I ponder this the more the inclusion of my family seems the right decision.

By including my family I hope to demonstrate the intentions of this website, to be as far as possible, honest and apparent with the reader. More importantly they form an important and central part of my story. Perhaps in many respects they are the result of my story, the final chapter as it were. In a way I wanted to declare that this interest, boarding on obsession with tracing the linkage between what it means to be black or white is not about trying to justify my relations with black people but help uncover my own sense of self and in the process hopefully make me a better human being.

I have tried to tell my story, or at least a version of it. From my early childhood, through my employment with Hackney, the death of Jamie Stewart and my studies with the Open University, I have tried to give an account that is open and transparent. It is by attempting to explore my own sense of whiteness that has given me insights in to how the discourses of white supremacy function at an internal level. I consider this a key moment in my development as a white ally. Taking on board Boutte and Jackson’s (2013) comments, this autobiography aimed to ‘find ways to make peace with damage done and being done by white racism’ (p.14), by attempting to explore the white racism within me. This is where the research project into the linkage between a sense of being white and its relationship to being black must begin. If I cannot undertake such an exploration then how can I ask someone else, another white person to?


See Booklist in ‘Culture’ section for the bibliography of books used in this article