SAGE Journal Articles

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Bell and Hartmann, Diversity in Everyday Discourse: The Cultural Ambiguities and Consequences of “Happy Talk”. American Sociological Review December 2007 vol. 72 no. 6 895-914.

Few words in the current American lexicon are as ubiquitous and ostensibly uplifting as diversity. The actual meanings and functions of the term, however, are difficult to pinpoint. In this article we use in-depth interviews conducted in four major metropolitan areas to explore popular conceptions of diversity. Although most Americans respond positively at first, our interviews reveal that their actual understandings are undeveloped and often contradictory. We highlight tensions between idealized conceptions and complicated realities of difference in social life, as well as the challenge of balancing group-based commitments against traditional individualist values. Respondents, we find, define diversity in abstract, universal terms even though most of their concrete references and experiences involve interactions with racial others. Even the most articulate and politically engaged respondents find it difficult to talk about inequality in the context of a conversation focused on diversity. Informed by critical theory, we situate these findings in the context of unseen privileges and normative presumptions of whiteness in mainstream U.S. culture. We use these findings and interpretations to elaborate on theories of the intersection of racism and colorblindness in the new millennium.

Griffin and Bollen, What Do These Memories Do? Civil Rights Remembrance and Racial Attitudes. American Sociological Review August 2009 vol. 74 no. 4 594-614.

Scholarly inquiry into collective memory has fostered a host of innovative questions, perspectives, and interpretations about how individuals and communities are both constituted by the past and mobilize it for present-day projects. Race is one of the more important current issues demonstrating how the presence of the past is both potent and sorrowful in the United States. It is therefore critical to examine how memories of racial oppression, conflict, and reconstruction shape race relations. Studies of race relations, however, generally ignore collective memory's role in shaping racial norms and attitudes. This article uses the 1993 General Social Survey to address the silences in the collective memory and race relations literatures by examining how Americans' recollections of the civil rights movement influence their racial attitudes and racial policy preferences. Although we find that Americans' opinions about government programs targeting African Americans are unrelated to civil rights memory, respondents who spontaneously recalled the civil rights struggle and its victories as an especially important historical event generally expressed more racially liberal opinions than did those with different memories. Our findings both support the basic presupposition of collective memory studies—memory matters—and point to a fruitful innovation in the study of racial attitudes.