Susan B. Murray
Professor , Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences
What research questions currently preoccupy you?
The main research questions currently preoccupying me are: 1) how do white people come to understand their own racial identities, 2) how do they make sense out of their own racial biographies within specific historical contexts, and 3) how do they view their own “racial place” within multiracial educational institutions.
What personal factors contributed to your research?
I attended Tucson High School during the 1970s at the height of the 1970s desegregation battles in the Tucson Unified School District. As a white middle-class girl raised in a segregated, racist community up through the 9th grade, my immersion in a minority-majority high-school plagued by constant race-based violence, made me question the “racial reality” I had been given. Though it was not until graduate school at UCSC that I really started thinking about my own racial privilege and racist proclivities, those high school years started me down a critical sociological and feminist path.
What has been most challenging in your research?
White culture, white racism, and white privilege are so deeply embedded in American history, in our social institutions, and in everyday thinking that I find myself in constant self-reflection about my own racial location. American cultural denial of privilege, of history, of institutional racism, and the constant barrage of white racism in the media (especially during this election season) create moments of intellectual self-doubt about my research agenda. Talking about and thinking about the very thing you have been taught to deny—it’s challenging—but it is a challenge I am grateful to be having.
How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?
Teaching in a multi-racial, multi-cultural environment made me pursue the education that I did not receive as an undergrad or in graduate school. As a professor teaching sociology of family, family-violence, gender, and sexuality, I feel it is crucial to provide an intersectional analysis in each of my courses. Working through these materials with my students—experiencing their analyses—is the greatest intellectual gift I can imagine.
A hidden (research) talent:
A hidden talent? Lol. Well you could read Harriet the Spy and then you'd know. Short of that, if you are ever in a room with a sociologist, you are in a room with a sociologist.
One book that changed your life (or research) and why:
Two books, The Sociological Imagination, by C.Wright Mills and Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. The first for his essay on Intellectual Craftsmanship, and the second because Harriet was the first ethnographer I ever met.
A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:
Since I’ve been doing a lot of research at SJSU, I find the IEA website invaluable.
Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:
Take care of yourself (emotionally, socially, physically, spiritually, and intellectually), so you can show up for your life with joy and enthusiasm. And remember to be relentlessly yourself.
Hikido, Annie & Murray, Susan B. 2015. Whitened rainbows: How white college students protect whiteness through diversity discourses. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 19:2, 389–411, DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2015.1025736
Hikido, Annie & Murray, Susan B. “White Rainbows: How White College Students Protect Whiteness Through Diversity Discourses,” Annual Meetings of the Pacific Sociological Association, Long Beach, CA: April 2015.