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American Mosaic Project

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  1. American Mosaic Project Project overview Our focus is on diversity and solidarity in American life, with race and religion as central lenses on issues of difference. Principal investigators are Doug Hartmann, Joe Gerteis and Penny Edgell. The project was funded by a grant from the David Edelstein Family Foundation. Data sources Papers from this project draw from both a representative telephone survey of American adults (N=2,081) and field work in four sites (Boston, Atlanta, Twin Cities and Los Angeles) with neighborhoods, interfaith organizations and festivals in each.

  2. Public and private measures of acceptance and trust Public: “Now I want to read you a list of different groups of people who live in this country. For each one, please tell me how much you think people in this group agree with YOUR vision of American society – almost completely, mostly, somewhat or not at all?” Private: “People can feel differently about their children marrying people from various backgrounds. Suppose your son or daughter wanted to marry [a person in given category]. Would you approve of this choice, disapprove of it, or wouldn’t it make any difference at all one way or the other?” Atheists and moral boundaries From Edgell, Gerteis and Hartmann, American Sociological Review April 2006.

  3. Convergence and its limits Hout and Fischer (2001): There is a “rapidly rising tolerance for (and maybe even preference for) religious difference.” Religions “others” increasingly accepted, but not necessarily those without religion. In America, religion is understood as both public and private, but always deeply tied to morality. Not many atheists, but a strong reaction to them! On national surveys about 14% are religious “nones” – but most are religious on some level. Only about 7% are “skeptics” who don’t believe or are not sure, while only 1% actually identify as atheist or agnostic. It’s a largely hidden category as well, since not outwardly identifiable. But even as a “symbolic other” atheists challenge how many understand the implicit nature of American belonging. Atheists and moral boundaries

  4. Atheists as elites lacking morality “There’s a real, ‘I’m an atheist’ attitude among people with major money. You don’t see this nice balance . . . I’ll say it again, some religious belief, I don’t care who or what you worship, just something to give you that stability. If you’re going all through life, ‘I’m an atheist, I don’t believe in anything except the almighty dollar,’ this is definitely a destructive attitude and the rest of the world sees it.” Atheists as non-elites lacking morality “Only by perception because you know, being a Republican, it doesn’t bother me in the least. Yeah, because I would say . . .the prisons aren’t filled with conservative Republican Christians. The prisons are probably filled with people who don’t have any kind of a spiritual or religious core. So I don’t have to worry about . . ., a conservative Christian, you know, committing a crime against me, chances are.” Atheists and moral boundaries

  5. Assessing critical whiteness theory Important innovation in ethnic and racial studies, puts focus on white racial identities and awareness of privileges that stem from racial status Whiteness is generally seen as “invisible,” hidden or unmarked, making progressive engagement with race difficult But a lack of empirical engagement to assess these claims – how invisible is white identity really? Invisible or just less salient? While whites report their racial identities as much less salient than African-Americans, Hispanics and others in our survey, identity was far from “invisible” If whiteness is part of a broader system of oppression, as theorists contend, what does this finding suggest about whites’ understanding of the privileges and disadvantages that different racial groups may face? White identity and views of privilege From a working paper by Paul Croll, Doug Hartmann and Joe Gerteis

  6. White identity and views of privilege • Views of advantage and disadvantage • Past surveys have asked about views of African-American disadvantage. The AMP survey used a split-sample design to also assess whether whites saw themselves as having been actively advantaged by their race. • The same gap between whites and non-whites remains on both sets of items, a majority of whites say that whites have benefited from prejudice and discrimination, and that African-Americans have been disadvantaged by it. • The systemic and institutional side of racial advantage is not nearly so clear to whites as the direct and interpersonal side however – the gap between whites and others was much larger when respondents were asked about the role of laws and institutions in favoring some or holding back others. • It is also worth noting that most whites as well as non-whites saw “effort and hard work” as important for helping whites get ahead (and less important for African-Americans).

  7. White identity and views of privilege • Progressive engagement with race? • The fact that a substantial proportion of whites both see racial identity and see at least some types of racial advantage is not well predicted by the critical whiteness literature and suggests that there may ground for a critical engagement with racial issues. • One limit or hindrance may be the widespread adherence to colorblind, individualist ideals that make issues of institutional racism hard to see. • Colorblind individualism • This is not limited to whites however – in fact, it was the overwhelming response of most respondents. • One result is that whites and non-whites are not as far apart as it might seem on some issues, especially regarding affirmative action and other “structural” remedies for racial inequalities.

  8. Religion and views of racial inequality • Religion, values and views of inequality • Religion has been identified as one source of non-racial values that shape racial attitudes. The question is how structural location of whites influence their views of racial inequality, and in particular how religious cultural tools are implicated in the construction of racial attitudes, and whether there are institutional effects of religion that are common across religious traditions. • Overall findings • Conservative protestant effects on racial attitudes are largely explained by the content of conservative religious belief (religious orthodoxy) and high levels of religious involvement. Moreover, they are driven largely by the effects of conservative religious beliefs on women and the more educated within the white evangelical community. • White evangelicals appear distinctive and this does not result from higher levels of racial isolation relative to other whites. • In particular, religious involvement is significant and negatively related to whites’ views of African-American disadvantage, such that each one-unit increase in religious involvement among Whites, controlling for all other variables in the equation, leads to a decrese in the odds of believing that prejudice and discrimination as well as laws and institutions are important explanations for African American disadvantage. On the other hand, White Catholics are more likely than non-Catholics (and non-conservative Protestants) to believe that prejudice and discrimination is an important explanation for African American disadvantage. On the other hand, the religiously orthodox and those women who are also conservative protestant are more likely to see “lack of effort and hard work” as the relevant explanation.

  9. Religion and views of racial inequality