Behind the White Picket Fence

Power and Privilege in a Multiethnic Neighborhood

By Sarah Mayorga

208 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 3 maps, 11 tables, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1863-0
    Published: November 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-1864-7
    Published: November 2014
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4660-0
    Published: November 2014

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Awards & distinctions

Distinguished Contribution to Research Book Award, Latino/a Sociology Section, American Sociological Association

The link between residential segregation and racial inequality is well established, so it would seem that greater equality would prevail in integrated neighborhoods. But as Sarah Mayorga-Gallo argues, multiethnic and mixed-income neighborhoods still harbor the signs of continued, systemic racial inequalities. Drawing on deep ethnographic and other innovative research from "Creekridge Park," a pseudonymous urban community in Durham, North Carolina, Mayorga-Gallo demonstrates that the proximity of white, African American, and Latino neighbors does not ensure equity; rather, proximity and equity are in fact subject to structural-level processes of stratification. Behind the White Picket Fence shows how contemporary understandings of diversity are not necessarily rooted in equity or justice but instead can reinforce white homeowners' race and class privilege; ultimately, good intentions and a desire for diversity alone do not challenge structural racial, social, and economic disparities. This book makes a compelling case for how power and privilege are reproduced in daily interactions and calls on readers to question commonsense understandings of space and inequality in order to better understand how race functions in multiethnic America.

About the Author

Sarah Mayorga-Gallo is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.
For more information about Sarah Mayorga, visit the Author Page.


"Mayorga-Gallo offers a deeper understanding of diversity in this thought-provoking ethnographic study.”—CHOICE

“A timely addition to the literature on residential segregation and integration. . . . This book will undoubtedly become a necessary point of reference within and outside academia.”—Sociology of Race and Ethnicity

“An interesting study that unpacks the challenges of integration and its meaning in neighborhoods populated by diverse social and racial groups.”—Journal of American Ethnic History

"Presenting everyday experiences in the context of neighborhood associations, intergenerational interactions, assumptions made among group members about others, and more, this exceptional book challenges us to think afresh about the meaning of diversity."--Wanda Rushing, University of Memphis

"This tremendously important book is both exciting and unique. Weaving firsthand observations with a bird’s-eye account of how power is distributed and deployed among residents in accordance with class-, race-, and ethnic-based privileges and proclivities, Sarah Mayorga-Gallo shows that spaces can be nominally 'integrated' while remaining functionally segregated."--Deirdre Royster, New York University

"This excellent book makes a compelling case for how privilege is reproduced in quotidian environments, through banal and seemingly innocuous practices."--Richard Lloyd, Vanderbilt University

Multimedia & Links

Follow the author on Twitter @MayorgaGallo.