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Title page for ETD etd-03282016-150600

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Champion, Sharon Zipporah
Author's Email Address z.champion@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-03282016-150600
Title White Privilege vs. White Invisibility and the Creation of White Fragility: How Social Normativity Negatively Impacts White Health
Degree Master of Arts
Department Medicine, Health, and Society
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jonathan M. Metzl, M.D., Ph.D. Committee Chair
Dominique Béhague Committee Member
Hector Myers, Ph.D. Committee Member
  • racial health
  • racial health disparities
  • Blackness
  • unmarked bodies
  • marked bodies
  • welfare
  • Affordable Care Act
  • Heroin
Date of Defense 2016-03-01
Availability unrestricted
Despite public health interventions, racial health disparities have proven very difficult to eliminate, particularly between Blacks and Whites. Each racial category carries its own health burden but most approaches use White people and their “Whiteness” as normative health entities to contrast the wellbeing of a racial minority. The literature describes a “white privilege” carried by these individuals, benefiting them and their progeny socially, economically, politically, physically, and so on, giving an invisibility to move throughout life “unmarked” by a racial category. However, this socialized invisibility can both prevent White individuals from being “seen” in conditions that benefit or disenfranchise them, and socially render them fragile (“white fragility”) from understanding and adequately responding to important health decisions. Explored are the social reactions to the “welfare queen”, opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and nationwide responses to the U.S. heroin epidemic to assert that this “white fragility” is detrimental to white health individually and as a group. The de-centering, problematizing, and direct addressing of the health impact “Whiteness” has on White bodies is expected to assist advancements in closing racial health gaps to benefit both Blacks and Whites.
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