American Sociological Association

“They Want the Spanish but They Don’t Want the Mexicans”: Whiteness and Consumptive Contact in an Oregon Spanish Immersion School

Drawing from in-depth interviews with 18 white, black, Latinx, and multiracial parents whose children attend a Spanish immersion elementary school, the author examines the politics of race, class, and resistance in a historically white community that is experiencing an influx of nonwhites. Parental narratives reveal that many whites enrolled their children in Spanish immersion to capture cultural and economic benefits they associate with bilingualism and diversity. Interviews also suggest that white support for diversity is contingent on the condition that nonwhites provide carefully controlled diversity: one that benefits whites without threatening race and class hierarchies. The maintenance of white spatial and social segregation allowed whites to engage with families of color at the school primarily through consumptive contact, a form of interracial contact predicated upon whites’ perceptions about the material benefits their children will acquire through exposure to diversity and bilingualism. Consumptive contact allows whites to selectively consume aspects of Latin American cultures without facilitating the social and institutional inclusion of the groups associated with those cultures. Findings illuminate distinct economic motivations behind whites’ engagement communities of color, adding a material dimension to our understanding of whites’ racialized consumptive practices.


Ashley Woody





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