Race has had a major influence on shaping and developing American suburbs, as discussed by Harris in Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America. The metropolitan areas experienced a significant explosion of diversity associated with the waves of immigration from foreign countries. As racism represented the “structure of knowledge and representations” based on the idea of separating “us” from “them,” the suburban narrative pushed the agenda of identities and the creation of stereotypical images of ethnic absolutism (Harris, 2013). Through the way in which the postwar suburban house in the US developed, it helped construct a white identity by elevating privileged representatives of society over unprivileged. Americans were prone to not seeing, thinking about, or acknowledging the privileges that they did not earn, nor did they examine the ways in which the white identity had been socially constructed and reinforced culturally. Harris (2013) writes, “white Americans have seen themselves as entire unracialized, their spaces as race-neutral” (p. 13). However, the ability to own a home in the suburbs was a sign of middle-class belonging, with whiteness dominating both media and literature representations surrounding the depictions of suburban areas.
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The institutional practices and policies have contributed to the segregation of suburbs as they advocated for racial exclusion on a regular basis. The terms ‘homeowner,’ ‘citizen, ‘white,’ and ‘voter’ were used interchangeably, and such a conflation came about in the postwar US as an implication of carefully-crafted economic and housing policies and restrictions that went along with them (Harris, 2013). The governmentally-enforced racial segregation integrated systemic racism into American society, which affected multiple areas of social and economic life. Therefore, it is not only a matter of “us” and “them” perception of the population but also deliberate actions aimed at serving the privileged.
Harris, D. (2013). Little white houses: How the postwar home constructed race in America. University of Minnesota Press.