Whose Time is it? Whites’ Time
Do we all have the same twenty-four hours in a day? In Sociology of Race & Ethnicity, Rahsaan Mahadeo enters uncharted new territory in critical whiteness studies by arguing that “time is not race neutral.” Instead, people of color suffer from disadvantages and inequality as it relates to time. He argues that social structure and the advantages of whiteness, rather than individual behavior, create time inequality. Through fifteen months of ethnographic observation at a multiservice center for youth in crisis in Minnesota, and thirty in-depth interviews with teenagers who frequent the center, Mahadeo studies the ways youth of color in urban spaces view issues of time as racialized. “Racialization” refers to the ways that race influences how people experience social life and phenomena—in this case, time.
Mahadeo found that participants of color viewed White youth as having a more advantageous relationship to time than themselves. They viewed White youth as benefitting from the luxury of time as a result of psychological and emotional resources, resources not bestowed to themselves. Participants not only viewed themselves as having less time, but as having to work twice as hard (physically, mentally, and emotionally) within that time deficit. Despite this extra work, they still saw themselves achieving results that are only half as good as their White counterparts. He found that some youth at the center resisted the racialization of time by interrogating ideas associated with whiteness, including White employees of the center. Lastly, Mahadeo found that participants tried to flip the relationship between time and whiteness by characterizing White youth as behind the times and engaging in cultural appropriation to keep up.
These youth’s perspectives and Mahadeo’s interpretation stem from recognizing that non-Whites need to understand White culture to survive in a world that values and centers around whiteness. Whites do not have to expend psychological or emotional energy to do this, reducing their racialized temporal burden compared to people of color. Overall, Mahadeo and his participants describe a reality in which time and whiteness are intertwined, perpetuating disparities in time across groups despite efforts by youth of color to resist that inequality.