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This lively, informative study provides an intimate view of the lived experience of race in urban America from a unique vantage: the corner store. Sociologist Monica McDermott spent a year working as a convenience store clerk in white working class neighborhoods in Atlanta and Boston in order to observe race relations between blacks and whites in a natural setting. Her findings illuminate the subtle cues and genuine misunderstandings that make up race relations in many urban communities, explore how racial interactions and racial identity are influenced by local context, and provide evidence of what many would prefer to believe does not exist: continued anti-black prejudice among white Americans. McDermott notes that while most black-white interactions are civil and unremarkable on the surface, interactions between blacks and whites living in close proximity are characterized by continual attempts to decipher the intent behind words, actions, and gestures, and that certain situations and topics of conversation, such as crime or gender relations, often elicit racial stereotypes or negative comments. Her keen insights on the nuances of race relations will make this book essential reading for students and anyone interested in life in contemporary urban America.
List of Tables vii
Preface and Acknowledgments ix
Chapter 1. The Cities and the Sites: “The Crescent” in Atlanta and “Greenfield” in Boston 19
Chapter 2. Experiences of White Racial Identity 38
Chapter 3. Situational Contexts and Perceptions of Prejudice 59
Chapter 4. The Implications of Diversity among Blacks for White Attitudes 79
Chapter 5. Race, Crime, and Violence 104
Chapter 6. Race, Gender, and Sexuality 130
Appendix 1. Cashiers, Neighbors, and Regular Customers 157
Appendix 2. Notes on Methodology 159
Posted July 7, 2006
The book explores race relations and is a sort of an undercover look at working class people's basic thoughts on stereotypes and how those views differ based on region. The researcher gets jobs at convenience stores in two working-class white neighborhoods bordering on working-class black neighborhoods, one in Atlanta and one in Boston. It's a fast read because it is an interesting concept. I'm not so cool with the whole treating people like guinea pigs in the whole Nickeled and Dimed style of research, though the researcher is honest with people if they ask her background (she grew up as a working class white southerner). The focus is on white-black race relations and interactions. One of the main differences she notices is the difference in how race is perceived in Boston and Atlanta. In Boston, working class whites are proud of their ethnicity and are more likely to identify with an Old-world group, like Irish or Italian. They're also very defensive of their neighborhoods, leading to block-by-block segregation and being open about saying racist stuff aloud. In Atlanta, being working class white is something to be ashamed of because the perception is that having white skin should guarantee you middle-class status. As a result, whites often actually have a hard time landing a job that is low-skill and low paying. Further, whites are seen as weak and passive. However, in both cases, working-class whites realize that race is not a polite thing to talk about, and usually save their views for whites-only company. McDermott also explores topics like racial profiling within convenience stores and views on immigrants. I liked this book, though it seems sort of location-centered. Maybe these views wouldn't be prevalent in places like California or Illinois. I found it especially interesting since I live in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia which has traditionally been a white working class neighborhood of Irish-Catholic background, though this is changing due to gentrification affecting all of Northern Philadelphia. It reminds me a lot of the Boston neighborhood described in this book. If you're looking for a quick and interesting read on race in American cities, though sociologically-focused, pick this one up.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.