Racial integration in a transition community

Molotch, H.

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Molotch, H. (1969). Racial integration in a transition community. American Sociological Review, 34(6), 878–893.

An attempt is made to record conditions under which various forms of racial integration occur in a changing community and the relationship between those conditions and the means by which members of the two races attempt to cope with the challenges of sharing biracial social environments. Racial headcounts are reported for various kinds of social settings and impressions are provided of the nature and differential consequences on blacks and whites of biracial interaction in such environments. Racial integration is found to be very limited in frequency and intensity, despite biracial propinquity. It is especially limited in those circumstances where interpersonal behavior is ordinarily informal, spontaneous or intense. Transracial solidarity occurs only in circumstances in which cross-racial cues of similarity, reliability and trust are strong relative to other opportunities for social solidarity.

Main finding
Extensive integration, measured not by biracial interaction but demographic composition, occurred mostly in formal places, such as churches and retail shops, and was absent from informal places catering to recreational and social needs, such as bowling alleys, taverns, and parks. The author argues that places of intimacy are more prone to segregation because people tend to be more anxious around strangers when the goal is to relax and unwind. The author concludes that interaction restricted to formal activities does not reflect transracial solidarity. Nor can it be expected to promote solidarity in the future due to power disparities between racial groups.

Description of method used in the article
The present study attempts to objectively depict the extent and forms of integration in South Shore. A two year participant observation was conducted from July 1965 to July 1967 in the community, especially the area’s major community organization and its subsidiary groups and committees. Simple head counts of the racial composition in various local settings were conducted to generate precise data. The racial mix of these settings points to the possible existence of other forms of integration.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Participant Observation
Physical types
Geographic locations