Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Rules of the Game: Finding My Place in a Racialized World

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

Rules of the Game: Finding My Place in a Racialized World

Article excerpt

This essay is an autobiographical examination of who and where I am on the plane of racial and ethnic relations. As such, it will be written in a spirit of self exploration and scrutiny, measuring my beliefs and feelings against popular theories of race relations in the United States. I will focus on specific historical incidents that I believe influenced my place in the racial world in which I live. In the first portion of the article I will evaluate the influence demographics and family have had in my life from childhood through adulthood. I will examine the beliefs of my parents and peers and how they might have influenced me growing up in middle-class suburbia. Despite the influence adults have on the development of personality, beliefs and attitudes are shaped further through adult interaction. Therefore, in the second portion of this article I will describe the influence military service and post military employment in law enforcement has had on my understanding of race, racism, and discrimination.

Assimilation theory will be the instrument upon which I intend to measure these observations. I will suggest that assimilation theory is alone inadequate in explaining the racial tenor in the United States or at the very least, in the world in which I live. Assimilation theory describes "the more or less orderly adaptation of a migrating group to the ways and institutions of an established group" (Gallagher, 18). Assimilation according to Milton Gordon follows an almost mechanical flow from cultural assimilation through civic assimilation (Gallagher, 19). Is it possible that American society is still within a state of transition? Possibly, but despite J. Allen Williams and Suzanne Ortega's observation that "assimilation varies considerably from one group to another" (Gallagher, 20), and that the mechanical flow may not always be orderly, the fact remains that United States institutions are yet to be dominated, or even populated, by any race other than white.

My mother and father are both from Massachusetts. My father, John J. Barrett Jr., was the son of John Sr., an immigrant Irishman and mother Violet, from Canada (also of Irish decent). He grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, while my mother, Elizabeth Neal, was raised in Framingham. Elizabeth was the daughter of George Neal, a firefighter, himself predominantly Irish and Dorothy a church organist and hair dresser. Both of my parents are post World War II 'Baby Boomers.' My father was a police officer in Wrentham, Massachusetts, where I now work in the same profession. Looking at my own family, which is predominantly Irish, one can see clearly the public service ties so closely linked to early Irish history in the United States. Roger Waldinger points out how the Irish penetrated the public sector at a time when "the public sector provided relatively few jobs" (Gallagher, 320). The 'good old boy network' soon took care of the Irish (especially in Boston), and persists to this day in many public sector jobs.

My mother is a nurse at Metro-West Medical Center in Framingham. They divorced when I was in 5th grade, but fortunately for my brother, two sisters and I, we never moved out of Wrentham. I went to elementary school in Wrentham, where I lived until I joined the military in 1988. The Thompson's were the black family living in Wrentham at the time; at least, they were the only black people I knew growing up. Wrentham was a post World War II suburb like those described in the documentary film Race: the Power of an Illusion. I recall being very small and driving through the town with my father and having him point to the small houses he called 'salt boxes.' He told me these were homes built hastily for the returning WWII soldiers. All the houses were similar in appearance and structure. Clearly, Wrentham's whiteness is a result of the governmental policies of the 1940s and 1950s which unfairly excluded minority populations.

My America was an America envisioned by the Greatest Generation, and speaking more broadly, the America that the Founding Fathers envisioned as well. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.