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Racial Ambivalence in Diverse Communities

Whiteness and the Power of Color-Blind Ideologies

Meghan A. Burke

This book makes use of in-depth interviews with the residents most active in shaping the racially diverse urban communities in which they live. As most of them are white and progressive, it provides a unique view into the particular ways that color-blind ideologies work among liberals, particularly those who encounter racial diversity regularly. It reveals not just the pervasiveness of color-blind ideology and coded race talk among these residents, but also the difficulty they encounter when they try to speak or work outside of the rubric of color-blindness. This is especially vivid in their concrete discussions of the neighborhoods’ diversity and the choices they and their families make to live in and contribute to these communities. This close examination of how they wrestle with diversity in everyday life reveals the process whereby they unintentionally re-create a white habitus inside of these racially diverse communities, where despite their pro-diversity stance they still act upon and preserve comfort and privileges for whites. The book also provides a close examination of white racial identity, as the context of a diverse community provides both the catalyst and, significantly, the space for an examination of an unarticulated racial consciousness, which has implications for our study of whiteness more generally. The layers of ambivalence and pride surrounding the fact of diversity in these neighborhoods and residents’ lives reveal both limitations and hope as the nation itself becomes more diverse. This critical and yet compassionate book extends our understanding of contemporary racial ideology and racial discourse, as well as our understanding of the complexities of whiteness. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 204Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-6667-3 • Hardback • June 2012 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
978-0-7391-9062-3 • Paperback • December 2013 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-0-7391-6668-0 • eBook • June 2012 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
Meghan A. Burke is assistant professor of sociology at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Chapter 1: Looking Inside Diverse Communities
Chapter 2: Active Residents and Their Work
Chapter 3: Color-Blind Ideologies in a Liberal, Diverse Community
Chapter 4: Consuming Diversity
Chapter 5: Contextualizing White Identity
Chapter 6: The Path Ahead
Burke (Illinois Wesleyan Univ.) presents a qualitative analysis of the nature of racial ambivalence in three communities composed of whites, blacks, Latina/os, and Asians in Chicago. This research, based on in-depth interviews, explores the impact of color-blind ideologies, shows how thinking about race translates into a variety of community efforts, and illustrates the link between racial discourse and social action. Furthermore, it raises a number of critiques of coded racial discourse. The book's major focus revolves around the negotiations that take place between the ideals of diversity and color-blind society in communities where the majority white residents hold disproportionate decision-making power. Burke demonstrates through the participants' voices how the residents value or define diversity; how they deal with community issues related to social life, safety, development, and justice; and how whites negotiate their racial identities and unintentionally recreate a ‘white habitus.’ She recommends changes at the national and community levels in order to build, support, strengthen, and sustain communities based on diversity, racial equality, and social justice. A valuable addition to the growing literature on urban/community sociology and race and ethnic studies. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.

Racial Ambivalence in Diverse Communities uses rich interview data to offer a penetrating analysis of the complexities and contradictions involved in trying to maintain diverse urban neighborhoods. I strongly recommend this book to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of how white Americans wrestle with issues of diversity and race.
Ashley "Woody" Doane, University of Hartford

This is a much needed and timely examination of the link between racial ideology and social outcomes in racially diverse communities. Based on strong ethnographic research, Burke aptly demonstrates how the hazards of color-blind ideology and normative whiteness are present even as residents celebrate and embrace racial diversity. In doing so, she offers an important path toward real conversations about race and democracy.
Michael Maly, Roosevelt University

With sensitivity and firmness, Meghan Burke documents the complexities and contradictions of white understandings of race in the contemporary United States. Drawn from a battery of richly contextualized interviews with residents of three diverse Chicago neighborhoods, Racial Ambivalence is at its most original in showing the tensions between colorblindness and ideals of diversity, and in exploring how these ostensibly liberal visions actually complicate the quest for equality and racial justice in America today.
Doug Hartmann, University of Minnesota