Neighborhood diversity, the “Buffering Hypothesis”, and the (in)tolerance of Whites

Authors: Richard Wright*, Dartmouth College, Mark Ellis, University of Washington
Topics: Population Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: buffer thesis, neighborhood diversity, race, hostility, tolerance
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 24
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In metropolitan areas with significant numbers of Latinx and Black people, Santiago (1991) hypothesized that Latinx groups may “buffer” White neighborhoods from Black ones. Building on her idea, Farley and Frey (1994) subsequently suggested that Latinx and Asian groups provide a social or spatial “buffer” that enables White and Black neighborhood co-residence. The logic is that for Whites, increases in Latinx and Asian populations in their residential spaces moderates their resistance to the presence of Blacks helping to explain growing neighborhood racial diversity. This essay suggests extending the thesis in several ways. First, we recall the direct and structural violence that Blacks endured in their attempts to integrate previously predominantly White neighborhoods and consider an additional theoretical possibility: that is, Latinx and Asian groups provide a “buffer” enabling White and Black co-residence because Blacks are cushioned from the actions of Whites. This alternative view reminds us of the trauma endured by Blacks who integrated previously all-White neighborhoods and requires us to place not White tolerance but White intolerance at the center of our attention. We further observe that Whites are the active players in this theory, and we wonder about the agency of other groups in neighborhood integration processes.

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