Public Interraciality: Navigating
Racially Homogeneous Social Spaces
Like going to church, I didn’t realize it, um, before I knew Neil,
that it was such an issue, that there was such, that church was so
segregated, it really is…. There’s no—you can’t find a setting that
you feel comfortable in, that it’s a nice mix, a balance, racial balance.
It’s either all Black or all White. You know or all, you know, whatever
the race is. I mean we’re dealing with Black and White basically, you
know, um, you can very easily find a church that’s predominantly
Jamaican. You’re happy and comfortable in there, but I know that
Neil’s not, wouldn’t be comfortable…. Right now we’re not really
um, we don’t really go to church on a regular basis…. I would be
more comfortable going to church if, as a family, if we were able to
find a more diverse church.
IN THIS QUOTATION, Mary Chambers laments the scarcity of racially integrated churches that she can attend with her White husband, Neil Chambers, and their three children. She draws our attention to a form of social organization that troubles many interracial couples: the spatial separation of White and Black social environments. Though these racial divisions characterize everyday life for most Americans, not just Black/ White couples, interracial couples often have a particular investment in racially mixed spaces, because generally in such spaces neither partner feels conspicuous and both can be comfortable. But mixed environments are hard to find, as Mary’s observation about places of worship indicates. Couples in my study navigated racially homogeneous barber shops, restaurants, subway cars, convenience stores, dance classes, theaters, activist group meetings, post offices, Little League practices, video stores, block