Racemaking in New Orleans: Racial Boundary Construction and the Prospects for Social Change

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:45 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Natalie YOUNG , Sociology, University of Pennsylvania
Lourdes GUTIÉRREZ NÁJERA , Dartmouth College
This paper explores how an ideologically diverse group of affluent, white American college students respond to and process evidence of white racism and racial and class inequality in their immediate environment.  It is based on an ethnographic study of Tulane University students living in post-Katrina New Orleans.  Although participants’ responses to racial and class inequality within and without New Orleans suggest their racial attitudes and ideologies are anything but uniform, Tulane students remain largely uninvolved in combating these inequities.  Drawing on anthropological and sociological theories of racialization, we suggest that students’ socio-political inactivity is linked to their continuous construction and reinforcement of racial boundaries between themselves and local African American residents of New Orleans.  Importantly, although there are some differences in how boundaries are constructed by participants who subscribe to different racial ideologies (e.g. color-blind racism, racial progressivism), we find the outcome to largely be the same.  White Tulane students distance themselves socially from African Americans in the city, reinforcing social boundaries while deterring student desire to combat structural inequalities. The findings offer valuable insight into racial boundary making processes and the socio-political implications of such boundary construction in the United States.