How the Color Line Bends: The Geography of White Prejudice in Modern America (Oxford UP, 2022) explores the connection between prejudice and place in modern America. Existing scholarship suggests that living near Black Americans presents a “threat” to White Americans, which in turn influences White opinions on policies related to race. This book rejects the tendency to position White people as tacit victims and Black people as threatening, instead recasting White Americans as active viewers of their surroundings. This reframing brings a critical focus on power and positionality to scholarship on racial threat, and challenges the neutrality typically assigned to the White perspective. The book first presents ethnographic analysis of Louisiana residents caught in a racialized debate over incorporating a new city in the Baton Rouge area, using interpretive methods to show how race colors White residents’ perspective on local geography and politics. Then, the book applies its conceptualization of a White perspective to the quantitative study of prejudice and place, revisiting the classic racialized policy issues of welfare and affirmative action. These analyses emphasize White Americans’ diverse beliefs and surroundings but also their common structural position, and how an interest in defending that position shapes the White perspective. This emphasis supports new empirical insights on the behavior of racially tolerant White people, perceptions of the Black middle class, and the consequences of segregation for racial politics. The book also includes discussion of the author’s own positionality as a Black woman researcher in conversation with White interview subjects, and the risks of Whiteness studies that leave Black people invisible.
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