Birds of a Feather: The Whiteness of Birding

In: On Whiteness
Oliver Cashman-Brown
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The objective of this chapter is to understand how white privilege plays a part in the exclusion of non-white people from the activity of birding, in which over 90 percent of participants are white. Through an autoethnography, I chronicle ten Western New York birdwalks, unpack my own whiteness and consider why the demographics of birdwatchers are so racially skewed. I utilise Ogbu’s Cultural Ecological Model, calling attention to systemic forms of racism, highlighting the way society and its institutions have treated minorities, and to community forces, which bring to light how non-white communities interpret and respond to such treatment. I also utilise whiteness studies to identify white privilege and to challenge how whites think about race. I postulate that low rates of participation among non-whites may be attributed to limited access to socioeconomic resources, which is a consequence of the history and patterns of racial discrimination in America, especially forms of institutional racism. I end by addressing the invisibility of whiteness, particularly my own, to disrupt its insidious power.

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