Although diversity has become a cherished ideal for Americans, a growing literature suggests that many are also ambivalent about lived experiences of diversity. Focusing on three historically homogeneous neighborhoods in Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles, this paper explores the “civic talk” used to express this ambivalence through interrelated frames of social order and civic engagement. In all three neighborhoods, long-term residents and neighborhood association members speak fluently about race, class, and other forms of diversity in their neighborhoods. Yet when they assess who “belongs” in the neighborhoods, the discussion is coded in civic terms. This framing enables neighborhood association members to act as gatekeepers, wielding civic discourse in ways that reinforce traditional neighborhood boundaries and social hierarchies, while maintaining structural inequalities.
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∗Correspondence should be addressed to Erin Hoekstra, Marquette University, Department of Social and Cultural Sciences, Lalumiere Language Hall, Room 340, P.O. Box 1881, Milwaukee, WI 53201; firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is part of the American Mosaic Project funded by the Edelstein Foundation of Minneapolis, MN.
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