Assignment: Color-line Placements
To gauge color-line placements at the qualitative level, we provide in-depth portraits of experiences and the subjective meanings and significance of racial status, racial divides, intermarriage, and multiracial identification. Of particular value is the qualitative data in regard to intermarriage, because several of the immigrant groups under consideration are growing in relative size, a change that tends to move their own group rates of intermarriage in the opposite direction from any loosening of cultural boundaries between ethnoracial groups.
We focus on intermarriage because it signals declining racial and ethnic prejudice and fading group boundaries and is one of the final stages of a minor- ity group’s incorporation into a majority group’s host culture; we study multi- racial identification because seeing and identifying oneself in multiracial terms reflects a jettisoning of the exclusive and absolutist bases of racial categoriza- tion that have long marked racial identification in the United States. Both interracial marriage and multiracial identification thus speak volumes about the current meaning of racial status in American society; in particular, they signal where racial-group boundaries are fading most rapidly and where they continue to endure. Therefore, examining the trends and patterns in both the quantitative and qualitative data will help determine where the color line is being drawn in the twenty-first century.
We also focus on whether and to what degree ethnoracial diversity in general relates to indicators of ethnoracial boundary loosening, such as intermarriage and multiracial reporting. Robert D. Putnam (2007) has recently argued that such diversity seems to exert a negative effect on social capital and thus, by exten- sion, on trust and social cohesion as well. He conjectures that neighborhood ethnoracial diversity results in people’s “hunkering down” in their homes, a ten- dency that, if it does exist, would imply that greater diversity strengthens rather than weakens ethnoracial boundaries. In contrast, Robert J. Sampson (2009)
Immigration and the Color Line in America 17
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generally finds positive effects of immigration-related diversity on neighbor- hood social life.
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