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Looking for Research Participants on Telling About Sensory Processing Disorder

Are you a parent or caregiver of a child with diagnosed or suspected sensory processing disorder or “sensory issues”? Do you write about sensory processing disorder on public websites (e.g, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, Huffington Post, Mommyish, Babble, Baby Center Blog), your personal blog, or on social media?

If so, I would like to invite you to participate in a research study on talking about sensory processing disorder conducted by Stephanie Medley-Rath, a sociologist at Indiana University Kokomo. You are invited to complete a survey and participate in a private, online focus group on Facebook. This research explores how people make the invisible visible. In particular, I aim to learn how parents, caregivers, and individuals disclose invisible conditions (i.e., sensory processing disorder) in various settings. I intend to have participants describe how they make their child’s invisible condition visible to their child’s teachers, doctors, parents of friends, neighbors, other family, among others. The purpose of this study is to examine the content (i.e., what) and the process (i.e., how) of narratives about sensory processing disorder.

If you would like to participate, please contact Stephanie Medley-Rath at I will then send you an email with more details about your participation, an attachment of the informed consent document for your review, and a link to the survey to begin your participation. Thank you!

Website Problem

For some reason, my recent posts are not appearing here. This is a test post to see if this shows up first.


This is a test to see if I can successfully post from my iPad.

Indian American Token Characters on TV Sitcoms

This post originally appeared at Sociology In Focus on March 5, 2012.

Indian Americans are increasingly visible in television sitcoms. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores if the increasing number of Indian American token characters a sign that Indian Americans are “becoming white” through social class and educational attainment.

Man Watching TVMy guilty pleasure is sitcoms. While watching I noticed something recently.  Indian Americans[1. By Indian American am lumping all people who can trace their ancestry to India together and am basing my categorization on the character portrayals.] are everywhere! (Maybe MTV will cash in on the trend with a show called16 & Pregnant Indian American). At the same time Indian Americans are not everywhere. These characters are primarily serving the role of token racial minority character[2. A token character is one that only exists to satisfy the minimum societal expectation. It’s seen as a cynical move by media creators to ward off claims of being racially biased without actually integrating the tokenized group into the story]. Indian American token characters are displacing Black token characters (see Token Black on South Park as a satirical version of the Black token character). Today, token Indian American characters include Kelly Kapoor on The Office,Tom Haverford on Parks and RecreationRajesh Koothrappali (and periodically, Priya, his sister and his parents via Skype) on The Big Bang TheoryTimmy on Rules of Engagement, and Kevin on How I Met Your Mother (though he is only a recurring character). I’m sure I’m leaving someone out. I can’t watch every episode of every sitcom after all.

I know TV-sitcoms should not be treated as a reflection of reality, but thanks to television, Americans typically overestimate the racial make-up of America. Indian Americans make up less than 1% of the U.S. population. Judging by my non-representative sample of sitcoms that end up on my DVR, Indian Americans make up close to 10% of the population (I made up that number, but if there is one Indian American character on your typical sitcom with 5-17 regular cast members, then 10% doesn’t seem so far-fetched).

Some observers point out that the increasing presence of Indian Americans in business and on sitcoms is due to their population growth in the U.S. After all, “Indians have surpassed Filipinos as the nation’s second-largest Asian population after Chinese.” Not exactly. Indian American population growth alone can not account for increasing portrayals of Indian American characters on TV. If this were true, then we would already see portrayals of Chinese American and Filipino American characters on TV. We don’t. Something else must be going on here.

Asian Americans in general have been considered model minorities because of their academic and economic success compared to not only other minority groups, but also Whites. This begs the question, are Indian Americans America’s newest model minority? Perhaps, but I still think there is more going on here.

In previous generations, economic gains by other minority groups “Whitened” them. Today, we don’t speak of Jewish, Irish, or Italian as separate races (ethnicities, yes, but races, no). Racially, all of these groups are considered White. This happened as these groups saw their socioeconomic status improve. Is the increasing number of Indian American token characters a sign that Indian Americans are becoming “White” through social class and educational attainment? All of the above mentioned Indian American characters are in white-collar occupations and presumably are college-educated.  Rajesh is an astrophysicist. Tom is a government bureaucrat with entrepreneurial leanings.  Kevin is a therapist.  Kelly is a customer service representative in an office. Though Timmy, may just be an assistant, his character is portrayed as more polished, professional, and educated compared to Russell, the man he is assisting.

Indian Americans make up less than “1% of the U.S. population” but make up “3% of the nation’s engineers, 7% of its IT workers and 8% of its physicians and surgeons.” Moreover, “[i]n 2007, the median income of households headed by an Indian American was approximately $83,000, compared with $61,000 for East Asians and $55,000 for Whites” (Richwine 2009). The current governor of Louisiana is Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, the first non-white and Indian American governor of the state despite the racial make-up of Louisiana including 62.6% White, 32.0% Black, and only 1.5% Asian. Clearly, Indian Americans as a group are successful by American standards. Is it “Whitening” that has increased Indian American visibility in sitcoms or is it just Indian Americans are being held out as model minorities or a combination of both?

Regardless, the problem with model minority status (besides being reductionist) is that it ignores the conditions of many Asian American’s realities which include poverty, sweatshop labor within the U.S., and refugee status (read more here). Interestingly, two token Indian American characters, Timmy and Rajesh are immigrants, however, their characters provide little to no context as to what their immigration process was like. Even Rajesh’s sister, Priya, appears to come and go from the U.S. to India as she pleases without any discussion of the visa process. An additional layer to the immigrant story is that Timmy emigrated from South Africa and not from India, acknowledging the Indian diaspora [3. Diaspora is fancy sociologist speak that basically means the movement of a group from their ancestral homeland.]. Their immigrant status is important because it speaks to the growing foreign-born population of the U.S. (currently 39.9 million people are foreign born residents and citizens). At the same time, however, it reinforces the notion that Asian Americans are perpetual foreigners.

Interestingly, both immigrant characters (and Kevin, the guest star, not cast member) appear on otherwise all-White casts on CBS. Kelly and Tom appear on “Must-See TV” on NBC. It appears that both networks are approaching the inclusion of Indian American characters in strikingly different ways. CBS is clearly embracing the model minority, perpetual foreigner stereotype. NBC is including Indian Americans within multicultural casts. NBC also has the distinction of producing the one-season and done show,Outsourced, that was set in India last season. Though Outsourced enjoyed relying on stereotypes, Parks and Recreation and The Office are a bit different. They sometimes fall back on stereotypes, but also work to surprise viewers by offering non-stereotypical portrayals around race.  Kelly is a Valley Girl and Tom is an aspiring entrepreneur with swagger.  In other words, Kelly, but especially, Tom could be played by anyone regardless of race or ethnicity. The fact that these characters are Indian American adds to the humor because of the contradictions between Indian American stereotypes and the characters that they are portraying. NBC is using a color-blind ideology, so whether Kelly and Tom are a step forward or just more of the same is yet to be seen.

I appreciate seeing greater diversity in sitcoms, but I question the motives of the sitcom producers. It appears that the networks are relying on tired themes of tokenism, model minorities, and colorblindness without seriously considering race or what it actually means to be Indian American. Moreover, the inclusion of Indian Americans instead of other racial minorities may be indicative of larger societal trends regarding Americans’ perception of model minorities and the potential “Whitening” of racial minority groups.

Dig Deeper:

  1. Why do you think Indian Americans are become more common as the token racial minority character on sitcoms? Are Indian American token characters displacing Black token characters?
  2. Do you think that economic and academic success is “Whitening” Indian Americans like it “Whitened” Jews, Irish, and Italians in previous generations? Why or why not? Do you think this is why we are seeing an increasing number of Indian Americans on sitcoms?
  3. What are the consequences of portraying Indian Americans as model minorities and perpetual foreigners? What are the implications of networks using color-blind ideology in their portrayals of Indian Americans?

What New Year’s Resolutions Teach Us about American Values

This post originally appeared at Sociology In Focus on January 17, 2012.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Were they along the lines of losing weight, being healthier, saving money, getting organized, or learning something new? What can popular New Year’s resolutions teach us about American Values? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how popular New Year’s resolutions reflect American values.

New Year 2012

In the exciting world of a parenting a toddler, New Year’s Eve for me involves staying up just late enough to watch the ball in Times Square. It aired live, so I watched it drop at 11 p.m. Central Standard Time and then went to bed. By the time the clock struck midnight at my house, I was asleep.

Before the ball in Times Square had even dropped the diet and exercise equipment advertisements were already airing. Many Americans declare New Year resolutions revolving around bodily self-improvement. We resolve to lose weight, get in shape, eat healthy, drink less alcohol, and quit smoking in the New Year. We might even get really specific. I’ve resolved to run 500 miles in 2012. [1. I ran close to 300 miles in 2011, so 500 miles seems attainable.] Bodily self-improvement may benefit a person’s health and add years to a person’s life. Regardless, these resolutions conform to American values of achievement and success.

Bodily Self-Improvement in the Name of Health

Values are a society’s ideas about what is good or bad. Smoking is bad and will kill us. Most Americans are ok with high taxes on cigarettes and there is rather minor resistance to most public smoking bans. Too much alcohol is considered unhealthy, but the right amount of red wine (whatever “right” means) can be good for our heart. We live in the era of an obesity epidemic and everyone is afraid of catching this disease [2. Last time I checked, you do not catch obesity. It is not the same as a cold or the flu. So why is our terminology the same? That’s for another day.]. We see smoking, excessive drinking, and obesity as bad. Limiting or better yet eliminating these things as good. In other words, Americans value health. The classic list of core American values identified by Robin Williams in 1970does not include health, but it does include achievement and success and activity and work. Most health-related resolutions would fit under one or both of these American values.

What Else Do We Resolve to Do Each New Year’s Eve?

If we examine other popular New Year resolutions, we can quickly see other coreAmerican values illustrated. A quick Google search finds that other non-health related resolutions include saving money, learning or doing something new, and getting organized.

Saving money does not neatly fit on the original list of core American values. Perhaps this is an emerging value or it is just a fluke and result of our current economic troubles. Regardless, saving money somewhat flies in the face of the American value of material comfort. Our standard of material comfort has changed to the point we are willing to spend a great deal of money to reach a level of comfort never before obtained in human history (Does anyone really need a heated toilet seat?). If saving money is becoming an American value then there is a value contradiction. It is difficult to save money, when the messages around us are to spend money and seek greater material comfort.

Learning or doing something new speaks to the American core value of activity and work. In 2011, I decided I would learn how to use my DSLR camera as intended (i.e., use manual mode instead of only auto). I failed. So learning this technology is still on my list of goals. For whatever reason, it does not seem like enough to just rely on auto. I have to learn manual mode and then I can think of myself as a real photographer rather than just an amateur (though I would definitely still be an amateur). In 2012, I have already signed up to learn how to carve my own stamps. Maybe I’ll be even more ambitious and attempt a run longer than a 5k (rest assured, I will not be doing a marathon in 2012). I am planning my first in the ground (non-container) garden and even bought books to learn how to can (my mother will think that is nuts as she sold all her canning equipment years ago). The point is that I have goals related to learning or doing something new in 2012.

Another popular resolution is getting organized. Getting organized illustrates the core American value of efficiency and practicality. We can see this in common phrases from professional organizers: “one in, one out” or “a place for everything and everything in its place.” The goal of organization is to make your home (or office or your life) run more efficiently. If there is not a place for everything then it takes longer to get to what you need. Getting organized may illustrate another value contradiction with material comfort. We think we need all the things we have to reach some sort of desired state of material comfort and then become overwhelmed by all these items necessitating systematic organization.

And are We Successful?

Now that it is the second week of January, most of us have our purchased gym membership or exercise equipment that remains unused. We’ve thrown out the fruits and veggies that simply rotted in our refrigerators. We are no more organized than we were two weeks ago. We haven’t saved any money because we bought that gym membership and fancy organization system. You might even be reading this because you decided to learn something new in 2012 and an introduction to sociology class fit the bill. As for quitting smoking, we are now smoking more because we are so stressed out from our utter failure at keeping any of our resolutions and you just were handed 2-3 books to read this semester in your introduction to sociology course. Yikes! [3. Maybe you’ve been successful and my exaggerating here doesn’t ring true for you, but many, if not most of us will fail sooner rather than later]

Americans then bond over our ability to fail so quickly at meeting our New Year’s resolutions. This leads us to another value contradiction. We value achievement and success, yet most of us accept the fact that we will not fully reach the goal we set out to accomplish with our resolutions.

Dig Deeper:

  1. Why do many Americans make the same resolutions each year? Why do Americans make such similar resolutions?
  2. Did you make New Year’s resolutions? Why or why not? If you did, are your resolutions similar to the popular resolutions?
  3. Why do Americans claim to value achievement and success yet accept failure and mediocrity so easily?
  4. What other resolutions do people make that are related to our American Values?

Your Presence is Requested at Our Divorce Party

This post originally appeared at Sociology In Focus on November 28, 2011.

Are divorce parties just another excuse to throw a party? A Hallmark created celebration? Or just another example of celebrity excess? Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how a divorce party may be an opportunity for a couple to transition into their future roles as ex-husband and ex-wife.

The arrival of a wedding invitation may be exciting, but not out of the ordinary. The arrival of a divorce party invitation, well, that’s another story.

This summer—during the height of wedding season—Jack White, of the rock band the White Stripes, and his model-wife Karen Elson invited close friends and family to a party to celebrate both their 6th wedding anniversary and upcoming divorce.

Don’t believe me? Check out the invitation here.

Why on earth would a couple choose to celebrate both their wedding anniversary and divorce at the same party? While it may be difficult to wrap our head around celebrating these two events at the same party, let’s focus on the divorce part of the event.

It would be very easy brush off a divorce party as just the kind of thing that celebrities do, but there are divorce party planners and divorce party suppliers. Even Hallmark offerscards recognizing the newly divorced. We may never know which came first—the business supporting divorce parties or divorce parties themselves, so let’s get back to my main focus:

Why would anyone want to celebrate their divorce—especially together?

Divorce like marriage denotes a change in a person’s achieved status. Status refers to the honor or prestige attached to a position in society and can be achieved or ascribed. An achieved status is just what it sounds like: something one achieves, like graduating from high school. An ascribed status is something we are born with, such as race or something that occurs naturally, such as aging.

Marriage transforms statuses, men into husbands and women into wives, which is something that is seen as an achievement and to be celebrated. American women are still likely to take on the Mrs. title and change their last name denoting their new status and roles as wives. In other words, marriage is seen as transformative and something to be celebrated.

Divorce, however, turns men into ex-husbands and women into ex-wives. This change in status could be seen by the individual as achieved (if they wanted the divorce) or ascribed (if they did not want the divorce). Divorce could even be something in-between because a person may wish to remain married, but not under the current circumstances. Even if individuals in the former couple want to celebrate their divorce, to do so together is somewhat perplexing. Or is it?

In the case of Karen Elson and Jack White, it appears that they intend to remain close and continue raising their children together. Elson and White are doing divorce differently, but perhaps in the future more couples will see divorce as something to celebrate together as well. Perhaps they view a happy divorce as a way to continue a happy parenting relationship even if their marital relationship has ended.

Another issue in a divorce is what sociologists call role exit.  If statuses are the titles we hold, then roles are the behaviors expected of a person with a given status.  So as a husband Jack White may have been expected to be monogamous, a romantic partner, and confidant.[1. I emphasize the may have been in this sentence.  Who knows what Mr. White and Ms. Elson set out as their marital expectations.]  Now that they are divorced there is work that each will have to do to inform everyone of their new status and communicate to the world that they will be behaving differently.  When we leave a status behind, the work we have to do to change society’s view of us is a key part of role exit.

What does this mean for us non-celebrity types? It’s possible that divorce parties are a result of changes in marital patterns. Couples today are getting married for the first time at an older age than in the past, they are more likely to cohabitate prior to marriage (or instead of marriage0, and con tray to popular belief, they are less likely to get divorced.

Perhaps divorcing couples (especially those with children), are attempting to have a “good” divorce to limit the negative consequences divorces can cause to children. How divorce happens, impacts children differently. A divorce that is rather peaceful is going to harm children less (if at all) than a divorce that pits parent against parent. High parental conflict—married or not—is not good for children. Having a divorce party, especially when children are involved, reaffirms the couple’s commitment to the children while ending their commitment to each other. In this way, the divorce may be reframed as positive event and helps solidify the goals of the divorcing couple for the family overall.

Of course, a cynic might consider divorce parties just a result of good marketing. Perhaps no one ever considered a divorce party until they learned of businesses catering to celebrating divorce. So it really could just be Hallmark’s fault.

Now the most important question of all: Do I get the wedding gift I gave a divorcing couple back at their divorce party?

Dig Deeper:

  1. Why might divorcing couples decide to have a party to celebrate their divorce?
  2. What are the implications of divorce parties on society? To families?
  3. How has divorce impacted your life? Do you think a divorce party would have made things better, worse, or the same? Explain.
  4. There are plenty of negative examples of divorce in popular culture. Can you find any positive portrayals of divorce in popular culture? How does it differ from negative portrayals?

We Schedule Weddings around Deer Season

This post originally appeared at Sociology In Focus on November 14, 2011.

Deer hunters are an often misunderstood and even vilified subculture. This reaction provides an illustration of culture shock. When we come across a new culture we can either judge it with our own beliefs and values (Sociologists call this ethnocentrism) or we can understand a new culture using the beliefs and values of the culture we are observing (we call this cultural relativism. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores the subculture of deer hunting from a cultural relativist perspective.

The author, age 15, with an 8-point buck.

In my neck of the woods, deer season (aka shotgun season) is fast approaching. Around here, people schedule weddings around deer season. In other parts of the country, people schedule weddings around college football. Deer hunters make up a subculture that is typically vilified and often misunderstood by outsiders. This reaction provides an illustration of culture shock.

Culture shock refers to the reaction we tend to experience when encountering a culture different from our own. All of us have a tendency to judge foreign cultures based on our own understanding of the world. Sociologists call this ethnocentrism because we are judging other cultures with our own values as though they were superior or morally right. However, we could look at new cultures and judge them based on their own values and moral structures. This would allow us to see other cultures as they see themselves; a process sociologists call cultural relativism. After all, who are we to judge?

In my home town, deer hunting is considered important enough that students can get excused absences to go hunt. When I was in high school, I actually skipped school to deer hunt. Ok, I only officially skipped school once and it was because I didn’t realize that if I had obtained approval by a certain date, deer hunting would be an excused absence. The next year, I had a preapproved excused absence.

But why skip school to hunt in the first place? What do people get out of deer hunting? I mean, I don’t have to hunt in order to eat, so why bother hunting? Let’s explore this subculture in more detail and find out how deer hunting is intertwined with social bonding, competition, and food.


People are often surprised when I mention that brief four-year period in my life when I was a hunter. I decided to hunt because my dad hunted and to prove I could do what the boys did. Hunting involves things that sound like fun or madness depending on your perspective (and of course some will believe it all is just animal cruelty). For us, deer hunting involved waking up at 4 a.m., eating biscuits and gravy, and making our way to a deer stand before sunrise. Did I mention it was almost always freezing cold? Hanging out in the dark with a weapon did not end at sunrise. At the end of the day, you went to see other hunters either at deer camps (where people literally camp out near their hunting sites) or at a deer check-in station (now nearly obsolete because you can now call-in to register your harvest with the state). Interacting with other hunters is part of the culture of deer hunting and sharing your hunting stories is an important aspect of the activity.


Every hunter has a story about the one that got away. The lucky hunters don’t just have a story though; they have actual evidence of their accomplishment. They have the heads of the largest bucks mounted. They may even have their photograph with their harvest placed in the local newspaper. [1. Full disclosure: I have three deer heads on the walls of my parent’s basement and there were two photographs published in the local newspaper with my accomplishments.] Does[2. a deer, a female deer. Ray… sorry couldn’t help myself] are not mounted nor are smaller bucks. A buck smaller than the one you already have mounted does not get mounted unless it is unique in some other way. Yes, size matters and with deer hunting, the bigger the better and the more status given to the hunter. But bragging rights is not the only reason people hunt.


What surprises me the most is that the folks who are most offended by hunting, in my experience, tend to be meat eaters, who mistakenly believe that people hunt just to hunt. In reality, many hunters are hunting for food. Venison is actually really tasty and a freezer full of venison significantly reduces my grocery bills. People that enjoy hunting but do not care for the meat can donate the venison to food shelters in their state (check with your state’s Department of Natural Resources to learn about the procedure for your state).

Hunting for food fits neatly in with other food-trends. It’s local, free-range, antibiotic free, slow food. Urbanites, who normally might be opposed to hunting, are noticing this as well and there are an increasing number of hunts organized for people who are dissatisfied by our factory farm system of meat production who want to give hunting a try.

We are no longer a hunter and gatherer culture, but some Americans are keeping these traditions alive and adapting them to the modern world. Moreover, as our culture changes even more people are coming back to earlier practices, such as hunting in reaction to such changes like factory farming. Deer hunters make-up a subculture that most of us have little experience with. Practicing cultural relativism can help us understand the reasons for deer hunting and attempt to understand it on its own terms.

Dig Deeper:

  1. What are some of the reasons people continue to deer hunt?
  2. Why are people more likely to experience culture shock when encountering a hunter today compared to the past, when everyone hunted?
  3. What subcultures do you belong to? Do people ever experience culture shock when learning of your membership in a particular subculture? Explain.
  4. Select a subculture you want to learn more about. What are some of your beliefs about this subculture? Do a quick internet search on that subculture. Were your beliefs about this subculture confirmed or challenged? Explain.


Our Town Lacks Racial Diversity “Because there are No Jobs”

This post originally appeared at Sociology In Focus on November 7, 2011.

Have you ever heard of a sundown town? Have you ever wondered about the racial diversity in your hometown? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how her hometown lacked racial diversity by design, not chance.

When I was growing up, I had been told that there used to be sign on the edge of town that essentially told African Americans they were unwelcome after sundown. It made sense to me because there were no Black people living in my town of 6,000. There was very little racial diversity. But I still didn’t have any confirmation that my home town really had such a sign or was what is called a sundown town.

Then I found the book, Sundown Towns. I was browsing the book store at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meetings in Montreal and saw the cover. I picked it up and reviewed the table of contents. And then I opened the index. There was not one but several pages where my hometown was mentioned. Here was confirmation that the the sign more than likely existed. I bought the book and came back during the scheduled time the author, James Loewen was to be at the booth. He signed my book and I told him where I was from. We talked for a few minutes and then I moved on and read the book in my spare time over the next year.
The entire state of Illinois figured prominently in the book. And when I began teaching at a community college in Illinois, I knew I had to teach about sundown towns. Many of my students are familiar with the numerous rural Illinois towns mentioned in Sundown Towns. Importantly, several Chicago suburbs were also sundown towns. It wasn’t just a rural phenomenon. And it wasn’t just an Illinois phenomenon.

Most of my students come from towns lacking much racial diversity. When I challenge students to think about why this is, their primary explanation is this:

There is nothing going on in these towns. Jobs are hard to come by. The towns just are not very desirable for current residents to live in let alone for outsiders to consider moving to.

My students are right that the job opportunities in our area are quite limited. They are correct that to continue living in their hometowns, they most likely will have to drive 30-60 miles each way for work. But they are wrong in their belief that the limited job opportunities in the area today have always been limited.

My hometown had four railroad tracks running through town. The city was famous for its greenhouses and legend has it that my community used to be the primary supplier of roses in the Rose Bowl Parade. There also used to be a couple of soda bottling factories, a poultry company, and a couple of coal mines.

Today, we have low-wage, part-time employment opportunities: Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Walgreens, Family Video, and so on. It is quite difficult to both live and work within my hometown.

Once upon a time, however, a person could both live and work in my hometown. There used to be a number of jobs available within the city, but this hasn’t been true for a number of years.

What this means is that there has to be another explanation for the lack of racial diversity in these small towns, my town included.

Moreover, the assumption that these towns have always been White is incorrect. James Loewen, author of Sundown Towns, provides a detailed account using Census data to show how many of these small towns used to contain an African American family or two (or several) and then they all just disappeared–presumably, voluntarily moved away or passed away.

The only mention of any African American presence prior to 2000 in oral histories of the area, involves a coal mine war, when African Americans were brought in as strike breakers. There is no mention in that oral history that there were African Americans already living in town. There is occasional mention of a city ordinance that forbade African Americans from staying in town overnight (i.e., a sundown ordinance). The reality is that most sundown towns used to contain racial minorities but most racial minorities eventually left town due to these ordinances or due to outright violence that drove them out of town.

I grew up in what was once a Midwestern sundown town. Sundown laws and ordinances varied around the nation. They ranged from forbidding African Americans from spending the night in town (they could work, but not live there) to prohibiting them from owning property in a community or neighborhood. African Americans were not the only excluded group. Out West, it was common to exclude Asian Americans. And even once sundown ordinances were declared unconstitutional, real estate agents, banks, and neighborhood associations were careful to prevent African Americans and other racial minorities from owning property or moving into White communities.

To this day, my hometown is predominantly White, but the racial make-up is changing. Few racial minorities and Whites for that matter are tempted to move to my hometown today due to lack of job opportunities, but in the past racial minorities were actively excluded from putting down roots there.

In a nutshell, my hometown was not mostly White by chance, but by design.

Dig Deeper:

  1. What is a sundown town?
  2. Do you think your hometown was a sundown town? Why or why not?
  3. What are the racial demographics of your hometown? You can visit the U.S. Census to find a detailed breakdown or use your own observations. Better yet, check your observations with the Census data.
  4. Go to Sundown Towns and search for your hometown. What did you learn about your hometown? Do you think the information you found is accurate? Do you know more of the story than is reported by Loewen? Take a minute and give him some additional information.

Introduction to Research Methods

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