I am a PhD Candidate in Sociology at New York University. My scholarship investigates the mechanisms by which racial oppression is created and reproduced using two distinct lines of inquiry. The first and primary approach is concerned with integrating the insight that race is spatially constituted into the study of these mechanisms. I do so by contextualizing the study of concepts like racial ideologies and community trust in order to accomplish three things: 1. Expand our empirical understanding of the phenomena by incorporating and centering spatial variation; 2. Sharpen our theoretical frameworks by delineating how context matters; and 3. Open new lines of inquiry based on novel empirical and theoretical insights. In my second line of work, I examine non-spatial mechanisms of racial inequality in critical sites like childbirth and identify interventions that disrupt them.
My dissertation, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, integrates into the study of racial ideologies the longstanding theoretical claim that ideologies and material conditions emerge in relation to one another. I center local contexts to examine how we can better understand racial ideologies in the United States both empirically – do racial ideologies vary across place and, if so, how? – and theoretically – what predicts changes in racial ideologies? To answer these questions, I examine the dominant ideology in a community that diverges from the typical American racial context: a highly racially diverse suburb. Fort Bend County, Texas, is my primary case and is the most racially diverse suburban county in the United States. Analyzing 148 in-depth interviews with Fort Bend residents and community leaders, ethnographic observations of community life spanning two years, and 47 in-depth interviews in two theoretically chosen comparison communities, I uncover a local dominant racial ideology in Fort Bend that I term the diversity contract. In contrast to colorblind ideology, which involves avoidance of any discussion of race, Fort Bend residents exhibit a selective engagement with race: It must be recognized for certain purposes – including to celebrate diversity – but recognition of racial inequality or racism is not permitted. Through the diversity contract, community members co-construct the appearance of a racially harmonious community. I theorize that the diversity contract emerges in highly economically selective (i.e., affluent) racially diverse suburbs and find initial support for this theory through analysis of racial ideologies in two comparison sites – a non-diverse affluent suburb and a racially diverse non-affluent urban area.