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The Two Different Worlds of Black and White Fraternity Men: Visibility and Accountability as Mechanisms of Privilege

There has been limited empirical research on how individuals “do privilege.” As a result, our understandings are incomplete about how high-status groups continue reaping the benefits of privilege. Using data from fifty-two men in three white and four black fraternities at a predominately white institution, this paper demonstrates that visibility and accountability function as mechanisms of privilege. Because of a large community size, central fraternity house, and influential alumni, white fraternity men are afforded a hyper level of invisibility and unaccountability. Because of the small black community and the obligation black fraternity men perceive having to be the ideal black student, they reap a hyper level of visibility and accountability based on expectations from and interactions with a host of others (e.g., university officials, white students, black community, women). By showing how high-status whites epitomize an ideal white racial identity and preserve inter- and intra racial boundaries, we advance theoretical discussions on hegemonic whiteness.