Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


I've Got a Story to Tell: Critical Race Theory, Whiteness and Narrative Constructions of Racial and Ethnic Census Categories

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Charles Kanwischer (Other)

Third Advisor

Michael Butterworth (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Lynda Dixon (Committee Member)


This study examines the embedded nature of whiteness in the use of racial and ethnic categories on U.S. census forms. Specifically, this study focuses on people’s perceptions of racial and ethnic categories, how those categories have been historically used on U.S. census forms, and the relationship between this discourse on racial and ethnic categories and elements of whiteness. Like (Nobles, 2000), in this study, I argue that the rhetorical construction of race and ethnicity on census forms is not a trivial matter since the way that we structure these words and categories significantly influences how we understand them. Thus, this study practices critical rhetoric (McKerrow, 1989) and employs the use of critical race theory (Delgado & Stefanic, 2001) to investigate the relationship between the 20 counter narratives and the larger master narrative about racial and ethnic categorization in this country. Throughout this dissertation, I use Omi and Winant’s (1994) racial formation and racial projects to highlight several themes that emerge in the master narrative and counter narratives. By focusing on these themes, this analysis explores past, present, and future racial projects that may emerge in relation to the use of racial and ethnic categories on census forms and elements of whiteness.