Behind the White Picket Fence: Power and Privilege in a Multiethnic Neighborhood

Behind the White Picket Fence: Power and Privilege in a Multiethnic Neighborhood

Behind the White Picket Fence: Power and Privilege in a Multiethnic Neighborhood

Behind the White Picket Fence: Power and Privilege in a Multiethnic Neighborhood

Synopsis

The link between residential segregation and racial inequality is well established, so it would seem that greater equality would prevail in integrated neighborhoods. But as Sarah Mayorga-Gallo argues, multiethnic and mixed-income neighborhoods still harbor the signs of continued, systemic racial inequalities. Drawing on deep ethnographic and other innovative research from "Creekridge Park," a pseudonymous urban community in Durham, North Carolina, Mayorga-Gallo demonstrates that the proximity of white, African American, and Latino neighbors does not ensure equity; rather, proximity and equity are in fact subject to structural-level processes of stratification. Behind the White Picket Fence shows how contemporary understandings of diversity are not necessarily rooted in equity or justice but instead can reinforce white homeowners' race and class privilege; ultimately, good intentions and a desire for diversity alone do not challenge structural racial, social, and economic disparities. This book makes a compelling case for how power and privilege are reproduced in daily interactions and calls on readers to question commonsense understandings of space and inequality in order to better understand how race functions in multiethnic America.

Excerpt

Creekridge Park is an urban, multiethnic, and mixed-income neighborhood in Durham, North Carolina (see map 1). During the fall of 2010, the Creekridge Park Neighborhood Association (CPNA) once again held its annual picnic at the home of Burt, a White homeowner and established resident, on Harris Street. Temperatures in the low seventies and clear skies made it a perfect day for a picnic. The main purpose of this gathering was holding the CPNA board elections. Burt has a covered garage with a long, wide driveway that served as the party area. The property seems uncharacteristically new and large for the neighborhood. I heard on several occasions from Creekridge Park residents that these happenings are “really well-attended.” In fact, Cynthia, an established resident and White homeowner in her sixties, stated, “We get amazing turnouts.… It’s just been phenomenal.” The attendance at the annual picnic was highlighted by some respondents and attributed to a location change from a neighborhood-adjacent park to Burt’s house. “It just felt friendly to have it there [at Burt’s],” said Stephanie, a thirty-something White homeowner and established resident.

Residents ranged in their familiarity with the neighborhood association and its events. For example, White longtime resident Matt told me that “these uh, [neighborhood events] are times of extremely, uh, valuable and informal conversations that do make you feel part of something that works in our country.” White established resident and homeowner Rhonda said that while she was familiar with the association and its events, she never attended. “Um, just ’cause I don’t have that many frien—you know what I mean? Like, true friends, we haven’t gone [to any neighborhood events]. And I also, like, we don’t have kids, I feel like if we had kids we might [attend].” Martín, a newcomer and Latino renter in his forties, also did not attend the annual picnic. During his interview he stated that he was familiar with neither the association nor its events: “Como viene todo en inglés, vemos, y como no nos importa, no sabemos qué es lo que dice, lo tiro.” (Since everything comes in English, we look at it, and since it doesn’t matter to us, we don’t know what it says . . .

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