The White Racial Frame and the Old Patriarchal Frame: Are they Interrelated?

The white racial frame and the old patriarchal frame are interrelated and do overlap in the way they operate. The white racial frame operates from a white-dominated society that sees everything from a white point of view that “does not,” “cannot,” and/or “will not” take into consideration the experiences of racial groups of color. It is about what is good for whites only. Everything was designed by whites for white prosperity. If whites do not experience a situation and do not interpret this situation as good or bad for society or an institution, then that experience will not be legitimated by whites. If whites have experienced a situation, then that situation is legitimated by whites because it is not good for society or the institutions in which they operate. The white racial frame is limited. The only worldview it sees is the white world and all the economic trappings that go with it to keep whites safe from the contamination that exists outside that frame, the existence of minority racial groups and the unnecessary problems they suffer created by a racist society because of the color of their skin. Professor Joe Feagin explains that

this white racial frame encompasses not only the stereotyping, bigotry, and racist ideology accented in other theories of ‘race’, but also the visual images, array of emotions, sounds of language, interlinking interpretations, and inclinations to discriminate that are still central to the frame’s everyday operation. Deeply embedded in American minds and institutions, this white racial frame has for centuries functioned as a broad worldview, one essential to the routine of legitimation. (The White Racial Frame: Centuries of Framing and Counter-framing, New York: Routledge, 2010), Kindle Electronic Edition

For this reason, whites cannot have genuine emotional relationships with minority racial groups because they operate out of a frame that sees the negative attributes of these groups, especially African Americans. Consequently, the white racial frame has enslaved most whites and treats “whiteness as property,” which means that if whites do not go along with overt or convert racist behavioral practices in their communities, they will find themselves exiled to social ostracism and probably stripped of any material inheritance, if applicable. Some whites do not approve of the ill-treatment of African Americans, but they will go along in order to get along for fear of social ostracism and loss of their jobs if they spoke against racial discrimination.

In fact, many whites do not want to hear about racial problems because these problems continue to be exacerbated by systemic racism and whites benefit from systemic racism. They cannot understand what it means to experience racism and its negative effects on minority groups’ economic, educational, social, and political experiences because whites are the carriers of this disease called “racism,” whether they are consciously or unconsciously aware of this disease.

The old patriarchal frame accents the white racial frame, but operates from a male-dominated view. This frame operates out of ideological hegemony. It tells women and minorities what is good for them, what is bad for them, what they can have, and how much they can have. The patriarchal frame reluctantly acknowledges race, class, and gender issues. These issues do not seem to be of importance to white males because they are not affected by them. In fact, this frame views these issues as ideological abstractions. Since we live in a white male-dominated, white male-identified, and white male-centered society, white women are the only oppressed group that is closely identified with white males because they are “white.” They are the only group that truly has benefited from Affirmative Action. It would make sense that they would prosper from Affirmative Action because white men typically work more closely with white women, mostly marry white women and what better way for white men to improve their household economics and hypocritically use white women as a springboard to political success.

With reference to my post, I want to make reference to my earlier post. I posed the question do women desire to take the master’s place? White women have been economically empowered in their own right. Before the Civil Rights and Women’s movements, white women were stay-at-home mothers and took care of their husbands and children. Now that white women are just as educated or more educated than many white males, are as financially secure as white males, and have the highest hiring numbers in male-dominated positions (law, politics, etc.), they still have to fight discrimination because there still exists an invisible glass ceiling. By operating in male-dominated politics, few of them want more and will do anything to get it, such as Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are used as examples because they are the two political females who dominate the airwaves, and they feed on it and President Obama. They are not only encouraged to provide a false reality about President Obama, but they receive the full support from conservative right-wingers. The make absolutely no sense, and do not come across as knowledgeable gurus. It is also clear they want to please their Republican masters in order to rise to higher political positions or to make a lot of money for doing the dirty work for their masters. While the Republican Party is currently going after women’s rights, Palin and Bachmann have remained silent. However, the Republican Party treats them as if they are still little girls needing daddy to hold their hands and protect them from whatever republican-party-women-need-handholding It is clear they operate out of a white racial and old patriarchal frame with a touch of gangster mentality. It is quite obvious they are the Republican appointed designees to level attacks against the President. It is non-stop with these masculine-behaving women. In order for women like Palin and Bachmann to thrive in the white-male dominated political arena, they have to operate out of a vicious, cut-throat, greedy nature, a nature that is usually associated with cut-throat men in corporate America.
This is how I believe these two frames interrelate today that now cuts across race, class, and gender.


  1. Seattle in Texas

    Mary, I appreciate this post and the analysis of the white racial frame and patriarchy. It left me with some questions, though I think I may understand.

    One of my questions is on how powerful the white racial frame is, but was thinking about instances where whites might be able to have an inkling of comprehension on how very real and damaging racism is, thus not go along with white society even if they don’t agree. What comes to mind are whites in interracial/ethnic relationships and their own children are children of color. Whites who may have grown up around people of color and have relatives of color. And perhaps other white people.

    Your post lead me to think about patriarchy a bit more and can see the relationship with the white racial frame. And I appreciate the examples provided 😀 But! I just wanted to add that women on the left too engage in the viscous cut throat behaviors too. Though these women identify with “feminism” it’s certainly “white feminism” of which to me is nothing radical at all, but rather a reproduction of social inequality (I think about the last presidential primaries for example) and white women telling society what is best…instead of, “abortion is bad”, “abortions are okay and you should wait to have a baby”. Both extremes are potentially harmful. I don’t know if that makes sense. There are some things I do appreciate about feminism and do appreciate the struggles of the past, but the white feminism, at least of today seems to result in some of the same things as patriarchy.

    That’s sort of my thoughts and thank you for the post!

  2. phelonn

    Thank you, Seattle in Texas, for your comments. Your first concern is “how powerful is the white racial frame”? WRF is powerful because I do not truly believe whites CAN comprehend the damaging effects of racism, even though they are aware it exists. If you belong to the dominant group, in this case, whites, they are unable to genuinely commiserate with the plight of African Americans or Native Americans unless they have shared these experiences. In other words, whites are socialized to see through the white racial frame, and I cannot see how they can really understand what African Americans endure on a daily basis when they are part of the group that discriminates against blacks. Moreover, I agree with you wholeheartedly that “women on the left” have engaged in vicious behavior. During the 2008 elections, Hillary Clinton engaged in some vicious attacks against Obama. She played on the Muslim rhetoric and went as far as to tell the American public that she would not have sat and listened to Jeremiah Wright’s “so-called” poisonous sermons against America for over 20 years. Hillary was acting out of the white racial frame. Although she experienced gender discrimination while serving as a senator, she knew full well she could play on the gullible and naive minds of the average white American when it comes to racial issues. With respect to interracial relationships, I don’t believe the younger generation is as burdened with the white racial frame as much as I believe the older generation is, even though racism can creep into the relationship. I’ve been informed by some African Americans who were in interracial relationships with whites that they had perceived some racist behavior, even though it was subtle. Perhaps this answers your question “on how powerful is the white racial frame?” It is there, but some whites believe they are not racists because they grew up around blacks, which they believe gives them the so-called “expert” knowledge on the black experience. But I don’t believe whites will ever have “expert” knowledge about blacks until they have lived black people’s experiences. For example, I have head knowledge of white privilege and I see it in action, but I have not experienced it. Likewise, white people may have head knowledge of racism and see it in action, but they are not on the receiving end of it. As for “white feminism” of today and yesterday, these women do engage in patriarchal behavior and operate out of a white racial frame. But I want to add that I have seen both white and black feminists discriminate against non-feminists and people of color from a racial hierarchal perspective. Some of them, too, operate out of a patriarchal frame when they assume traditionally white male-dominated positions. It is because of this behavior that has turned me off with both black and white feminists. I do not consider myself a feminist and am not influenced by it.

    I hope I have at least partially answered your questions. I can go on and on.

  3. logoskaieros

    Thanks for your really engaging post. The phenomena of people understanding one form of oppression and turning around and being clueless about another boggles my mind. I want to respectfully disagree on a point, but first I want to clarify where I diverge from your argument.

    “They [whites] cannot understand what it means to experience racism and its negative effects on minority groups’ economic, educational, social, and political experiences […]”

    agree: Racism, sexism, etc. makes having genuine emotional relationships between an advantaged and a disadvantaged person hard and ridiculously complex.

    agree: If you don’t suffer a particular discrimination, you won’t know all the myriad ways in which is hurts a person emotionally, socially, viscerally, etc. Even if you’ve suffered another kind of oppression. You won’t understand what that particular ‘sting’ (or soul wrenching trauma) feels like.

    disagree: People are capable of understanding the severity, scope, and depth of an oppression they don’t experience. To argue that they can’t lets us white people off the hook too easily. It’s hard, but I can train myself to stfu whenever I think, “Well, I don’t see how that’s racism” or “that doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me” when a PoC is talking/writing. Oppressions aren’t the same, but some structural components are similar. If men can stfu and listen, I hold out hope that white people can, too.

    I hope I’m not just misunderstanding what you meant by “understand.” If so, I apologize and you can ignore this.

  4. phelonn

    Thank you, logoskaieros, for your informative comment. You ask an excellent question and I love a good debate, but I need to ask a question. So that we both can have a quid pro quo understanding of whites’ understanding the “severity, scope, and depth of an oppression they don’t experience,” how can they genuinely understand the PAIN that goes with racism? I accept part of your argument that whites have an “understanding” of racial oppression, but is this understanding an intellectual one or an experiential one? Perhaps I should have defined what I meant about “understanding.” When I say “understanding,” I mean experiential understanding. Whites’ intellectual understanding, in part, has allowed them to consciously or unconsciously support systemic racism. Perhaps had this understanding been an experiential one, systemic racism may disappear and we can all enjoy equality of opportunity. With reference to intellectual understanding, there are many whites who are sympathetic to the oppression of minority groups, but I personally don’t believe they understand the pain that accompanies the racial oppression. Tim Wise, author of White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, informs us that “Although white Americans often think we’ve had few first-hand experiences with race, because most of us are isolated from people of color in our day-to-day lives, the reality is that this isolation is our experience with race. We are all experiencing race, because from the beginning of our lives we have been living in a racialized society where the color of our skin means something socially. . .” (Kindle Electronic Edition, Paragraph 3, Location 33-38 of 3152). I can draw two conclusions from Wise words, one that supports your argument and one that supports mine. In supporting your argument, perhaps whites do understand and their isolation protects them from the feeling the racial oppression of minority groups. To support my argument, whites’ isolation renders them incapable of the experiential understanding of racial oppression. I do agree with you that “Oppressions aren’t the same, but some structural components are similar. If men can stfu (sic) and listen, I hold out hope that white people can, too.” I assume you are talking about gender discrimination. I think white men can address gender discrimination more effectively because it involves white women. Typically, when gender discrimination is discussed or debated, it always involves white women. Therefore, it is easier for whites to commiserate with problems involving “whites” than it is for them to relate to problems involving race, in general, because U.S. society has not adequately addressed the issue of race in this country, which is an obvious fact. Of all the oppressed groups in this country, do we not see more white women advancing to higher positions than people of color, whether that position is in politics, the academy, or corporate America?

  5. Seattle in Texas

    phelonn, I have been meaning to add more thoughts. For now, I just wanted send words of appreciation for your responses to our comments above. I’m confident I speak for many when I say that we look forward to reading more of your work. Thank you

  6. Mary Author

    Thank you for your response, Smoking Hot Politics! I was quite surprised that anyone would revisit and respond to older entries. Nonetheless, your response supports Joe Feagin’s work on systemic racism and the role elite white males have played in sustaining a society that continues to fill their coffers with the wealth of this country at the expense of the majority of the American people, even those Americans, Black or White, who would vote against their own economic and political interests. White males will use racism, sexism, and classism to sustain an unjust system that benefits them only. This is the reason this “do-nothing” GOP Congress is blocking Obama from succeeding and then lies about his economic policies. They simply will not work with Obama because they do not want him to succeed and ultimately win a re-election. However, I believe this will politically backfire on them.

    Mitt Romney is part of that historical preservation of a white male-dominated society. Romney’s appearance at the NAACP convention was a joke. His appearance was masked, and I believe he only attended this convention to expand his true followers, his white base and a frightened sycophant black base. Why would Romney stand before a an all-black audience and talk about repealing the Affordable Care Act when so many Blacks are dying of preventable illness because they do not have healthcare insurance or not enough of it? We know his appearance was a pretext. After he left the convention, he was heard saying, “If [they] want more ‘free stuff’ vote for Obama.” He told the audience if they only knew his heart, I think he revealed what was really in his “heart” when he made that statement on his way out the door. Romney cares as much about Black people as he cares about his ill-informed average white base that follows him. He reminds me of two other presidents that wanted to be president so badly that when they became president, they either left office in disgrace or left things in a mess: Nixon and Bush, Jr. In reality, some quarters of U.S. society want to see a historically preserved white male-dominated society that will continue to contribute to high Black unemployment by putting in place on jobs average whites who operate as overseers to hinder Black economic success, as much as they are turning a blind eye to the GOP’s obstructionist behavior that hinders the first Black president’s progress to move this country in the right direction. Presidents wield power, but they must have Congress’ full cooperation. Obama’s leadership abilities are always attacked, but how can you lead Congressional Republicans and some frightened Democrats who do not want to be led. If Congress does not want to work with a president, a president can only use his limited executive power to achieve certain results on a short-term basis. However, it is better for both the President and Congress to work together in harmony, setting aside partisan politics, to work on behalf of the American people to put the riches of this country at the disposal of the American people, when they really need help.

    Instead, I’m finding that a large number of middle-class Americans would rather vote against their own interest to support an obstinate GOP and rich white male elites like Governor Romney to deny Obama a second term. As for a privileged white male-dominated society, a number of Americans, regardless of race, are blinded by the white-racial frame that believes in the inferiority of Black people or want to believe they truly want handouts, while sitting on the sideline and watching their political leaders openly disrespect President Obama for trying to help them. It was a white-male dominated society that economically privileged whites over blacks from slavery, and the black community, as a whole, has yet to gain any real economic traction to this day. As a result, the ideology of the white racial frame blames blacks for their plight and this ideology has been adopted by black conservatives. I agree with you Smoking Hot Politics: “Thanks for coming Mr. Romney, but don’t let the doorknob hit you on your way out.


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