Will is a 24-year old white male. He grew up in a rural town in the heart of the Deep South, hailing from a place in South Carolina. Raised by parents who bounced from the upper-middle class to the lower-middle class depending upon the circumstances surrounding their business, Will has seen both prosperity and difficulty during the course of his life. While his town might be in the Deep South, it has a decently diverse racial mix, with around one-third of the population being black. The town did not have much diversity in terms of religion, however, with the vast majority of people there being severely Christian.
Will is educated, having gone to a private school and later to a well-regarded state university. His private high school, however, was one developed during the 1960s when the schools were forced to integrate. Named “Robert E. Lee Academy,” his school was one of many so-called “segregation academies” that provided white parents with the opportunity to send their children to a school without black children.
Will himself identifies as a Christian, but is not of the fundamentalist variety. Rather, he views himself as being on the outer margins of Christianity, and has struggled to find a church that provides the kind of focus on the message of Jesus that Will has been looking for. He believes that religion can be a force for good and for social change, and has grown disillusioned with the religion of his parents, which tends toward hard-line Baptist doctrine.
Will is extremely sensitive and compassionate. While he grew up in a household with good parents, he has developed his own understanding of poverty and racism in America. Having seen some of the worst of people during his upbringing in the South, he is extremely conscious of racial perceptions, almost to a fault. At times, he is paralyzed around people of different races, and especially black people. He has studied history in college, and he understands the symbols that white people have long used to denigrate black people. For this reason, he constantly worries whether the things he does or says around black people will be perceived as racist, and he wonders to what extent black people are skeptical of him because of his upbringing and appearance. While he would like to make more meaningful connections with people who do not look like him, he struggles because he does not know whether his presence makes minorities uncomfortable.
Will is extremely passive, having been the youngest of three siblings. He has always had to fight for attention, however, and this sometimes causes him to play the role of jokester or prankster. This is a contradiction within his personality that can sometimes cause him some difficulty.
He believes that he was abused as a child, as his mother physically hit him quite often. However, some would argue that his mother’s physical contact was just “spanking” or “discipline.” However, Will believes that these acts were more violent than that, and he sometimes finds himself angry with his mother because of that history. He also is very sensitive about his weight because his parents consistently put pressure on him to keep his weight down. Likewise, he was put under intense pressure to perform at sports and in school. These things have had a lasting effect on Will, who can be, at times, a perfectionist. These things collude to make Will extremely self-conscious and reflective, but they can also be negative qualities that keep him from trying things that he might fail at when he is uncertain.
- Donnor, J. K., & Dixson, A. (Eds.). (2013). The resegregation of schools: Education and race in the twenty-first century (Vol. 95). Routledge.