My high school, (Carman Ainsworth in Flint, Michigan), was more similar to Clavey than Valley Groves. The racial difference was about 49% White and 46% African-American, with the remainder being made up mostly of those of Middle Eastern or Hispanic descent.
As I understand it, Perry attempts in this article to examine how white youths constructed and reflected on white racial identities. She uses two separate high schools, one culturally diverse and urban (Clavey), and one predominantly white and suburban (Valley Groves). In layman’s terms, Perry is asking if demographics have an effect on the way white children and teens see and create white identity.
Perry discusses two different ways in which whiteness is reproduced as a social norm. One way is through naturalization, and the other through rationalization. Naturalization works by ingraining historic cultural practices in the minds of the youth as the norm. This is the process observed by Perry at Valley Groves High School. In this instance, the social norm is not challenged, and thus becomes something the students take for granted. The students never had been challenged to look at their race or culture in contrast to anything, giving the concept of whiteness the concept of normalcy, or the idea that this structure is the natural order of the world. Rationalization, on the other hand, is achieved through the forced consideration of racial differences. As seen by Perry in Clavey High School, the juxtaposition of cultures in Clavey forced students to rationalize their differences and order themselves as such. This rationalization forced the school into the concept of culturalization, which pushes Western epistemic ideals, (That whiteness is synonymous with normal), and marginalize all things seen as cultural.
At CAHS, I believe that we were able to see both processes in action. I think first rationalization occurred, forcing the students to order themselves based on cultural differences, and their perceived level of whiteness. At this point I believe the idea branches off and becomes naturalization. Those students who found themselves in white ‘culture’ (the students being predominantly white themselves) went through the process of naturalization. The boundaries were already set up and obvious, and because of this they were not forced to challenge their concept of normalcy. “That’s just how it is,” is the phrase that comes to mind here. While there was a great deal of interracial mingling, African-Americans and Caucasians fell into the Western epistemic ideals that caused them to segregate themselves. I would be interested to hear what Perry would have to say about my high school.