MARK TWAIN, eminent writer and observer of American race relations, once said, “Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” Until recently, the same could be said about theorizing race and ethnicity in the study of American politics. As 2000 Census data were released and analyzed, we saw a spate of stories in major newspapers detailing the growth and urban concentration of Latinos and the increasing political participation of Asian Americans. But for all the talk, there has been less progress in developing theoretical and analytical frameworks that can help us understand these important political and social developments.
While mindful of the many complex factors hampering theory development, our goal here is to provide theoretically grounded, empirical scholarship about the politics of race/ethnicity in multiethnic settings. This book is structured around and emphasizes the development of an analytic framework to analyze the politics of race and education in four multiethnic cities (Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston). But the book is not intended as a comparative case study per se, with the attendant detailed evidence harnessed to explain similarities and differences across cases. Instead, this book represents an initial, though extended, effort to come to grips with the multiethnic city as a distinctive setting and, within that setting, the politics of education reform—a policy arena commonly perceived as most critical to equality of opportunity in America.
Our analytical efforts face daunting obstacles in several ways, distinct from those facing scholarship that seeks to explain black politics and education reform issues (see Henig et al. 1999; Portz et al. 1999; Henig and Rich 2003;