1. Main Points
- Associations are the stuff of democracy; they are the lifeblood of civil society and the very embodiment of community. However, associational life has reflected racial segregation in America, revealing glaring inconsistencies between Americans’ professed principles of citizenship and their deep-seated desire to exclude certain groups from the privileges of membership.
2. The Ordeal of Integration and the Rise of Ethnic Nationalism
- After the fall of slavery, racial segregation arose as one of American society’s central organizing principles, and associational life bent itself to accommodate America’s newfound edict of racial segregation.
- In the wake of racial segregation, movements toward integration also began to take shape within associational life. However, some nonwhites thought racial integration did not lead to liberation, but only to more oppression, creating a movement that has come to be known as “ethnic nationalism.”
- Proponents of ethnic nationalism resist cultural and social assimilation, instead championing self-determination, race pride, separatism, and, in some cases, the creation of an independent nation based on racial identity.
3. Civil Society in a Multiracial Democracy
- America has developed a diverse and active civil society. Whites, however, have higher rates of civil engagement, whereas people of color are less likely to join voluntary associations and to participate in community activities. Racialized economic inequality is the primary force behind most of the racial variation in associational life.
- Race-based homophily creates the strongest divides in our associational lives, and is maintained through softer forms of exclusion known as boundary work.
- Analysts have demonstrated at least two of the social forces in which race plays a role in the weakening of civil society: (1) the suburbanization of America, which has contributed to the erosion of social capital, and (2) the observed reality that social capital and trust for fellow Americans are lower in more racially diverse communities.
- Identity politics refers to political action intended to address the unique interests and hardships of groups who historically have faced oppression and who continue to be excluded from mainstream society.
4. Hate Groups
- The organized racism cultivated by hate groups is more intensified and demanding. It is ordered by a unifying racist philosophy that demonizes specific “enemies” and advances certain goals aimed at promoting the white race.
- Hate groups draw from all regions of society, and they thrive off the erroneous idea that nonwhite advancement always results in white loss.
5. Cyber Communities
- Discussion of how race affects virtual associations must include who is excluded from these associations in the first place by virtue of the fact that they have no regular access to the Internet. That which separates those with regular unfettered home access to the Internet has been termed the “digital divide.”
- Those privileged enough to have regular Internet access are admitted into a parallel universe teeming with virtual associations and cyber communities.
- Since one’s racial identity is oftentimes unknown online, many internet users have come to regard whiteness as the virtual norm, and several studies have documented the prevalence of racism in cyber communities.
6. Religious Associations
- Religious intolerance is another force that tears at the fabric of civil society. Accounting for the many complex ways in which religious conviction drives social action is fundamental to accurately interpreting the social world.
- Religious life is racialized to a high degree. Religious associations in America are marked by high levels of racial and ethnic segregation. However, some congregations are quite multiracial and exist as a powerful force of integration.
7. American Promise
- The American associational field continues to be marred by profound racial divisions. But even in the midst of some of the deepest obstacles to the realization of a racially just society, there, too, can be found some if its greatest promise.