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
Monica McDermott is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Stanford University.
"Fresh and thought-provoking. McDermott contributes to the understanding of how even small daily encounters can be powerfully affected by racial stereotypes and preconceptions."—Julia Wrigley, author of Other People's Children
"A true 'insider's' account of how many whites now live and negotiate the color-line, McDermott deftly lifts the veil of the public ideology of tolerance to reveal the gritty durability of the racial divide. This book provides an important new sociological approach on racial attitudes and relations."—Lawrence D. Bobo, Martin Luther King Jr. Centennial Professor, Stanford University
"This bold new urban ethnography reveals the meaning of whiteness for the working class in their everyday lived experiences. McDermott offers an insightful, honest, and comprehensive account of everyday black-white interactions. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the tangled realities of race and class in 21st century America."—Mary C. Waters, author of Black Identities: West Indian Immigrant Dreams and American Realities
"Working Class White is an essential read for anyone concerned about the enduring problem of race in America."—Katherine S. Newman, author of Chutes and Ladders: Navigating the Low Wage Labor Market