Gatekeepers and Homeseekers: Institutional Patterns in Racial Steering , is an informative article that touches upon many of the key points gone over in class. This article deals with the difference in the way blacks and whites were and are treated, past and present, by real estate agents when shopping for a new home. In the study, one can see that blacks were not treated as fairly as white people in the real estate market were. Many times the potential black homebuyers were discouraged from purchasing homes in the same areas that the agent would readily show a white homebuyer. The real estate agent played a very peculiar role in doing this. They were, in essence, the racist gatekeepers of a seemingly non-racist neighborhood. The study further goes into this issue by giving explanations and interpretation of this behavior that is seen all over the United States. From thorough examination of the article, one can come to the conclusion that the author, Diana M. Pearce, is following the interactionist perspective to sociology.
In sociology, the interactionist perspective tends to use the micro approach, where smaller groups of individuals are studied. The interactionist perspective views society as countless encounters between human beings and everyday social activity. The fact that an interactionist would make a study based on everyday, example by example cases separates them from the other perspectives, which tend to look at the larger scheme of things. Using the above approach to the study, there are three particular questions that this article answers. First, why do individuals do the things they do? Second, do people always mean what they say? Finally, how is society experienced (what was the difference between black and white experience while shopping for a home?) The following will show how the article answers the previous three questions.
Individuals do the things they do for a number of reasons. According to the interactionist approach to sociology, the population of people are greatly affected by the past and the things they see in everyday life. In the United States, sad but true, most whites are racist whether one likes to say it or not. Even though the people living in a particular neighborhood may not have a preference as to who lives near them or around them, the real estate agent already assumes that it is for the best of the neighborhood not to integrate on a large scale. This general statement is clarified in the following example taken out of the article.
This notion can be correct as well as open to interpretation. As stated in the article:
White attitudes towards racial integration in housing have also become more positive. The steadily increasing acceptance of equal opportunity in housing over the past several decades has been matched by a decline in the number of whites who believe that they have the right to keep blacks out of their neighborhood. (p.117)
The reasoning behind this example is because the whites that have racist views have had a trend to run rather than fight. We can relate this to the days of cross burning in the Deep South by white supremacy organizations. This is the past, and an extreme example. Today s modern racist would rather leave the integrating neighborhood and move elsewhere. People do what they do because they have been stuck in the views and experiences they have witnessed, such as the real estate agent and the racist neighbor. The same holds true for the non-racist, prejudice free white individual, which is becoming the norm today. They are the way they are because they have not been taught to hate the black person.
Do people always mean what they say? According to the interactionist approach to sociology, people do not always mean what they say. Experience can change the views of people who thought differently in the past. This is best exemplified through a particular quote from the article.
In the beginning of the article, Pearce spoke of different types of behaviors experienced in previous studies. Paragraph 2, page 1 of the article speaks of the experiences of a Chinese couple taking a road trip during the 1930 s. This was at the heat of hate towards the Chinese due to war. Fewer that 1 percent of the motels refused them service, whereas 90 percent of the same motel managers said they would never give business to a Chinese person. This proves that people did not actually mean and follow up on what they said.
Another example from the article was with the real estate portion. The article said, The efforts of black homeseekers to be shown homes by the agents were not met with strong and dramatic refusals. Instead, their requests were frequently met with reasonable sounding excuses, such as no key , need to make an appointment, or with offers to show home at some later date (p.119) The white homeseekers were not met with these excuses. For the white people they usually had the key, did not need an appointment, and the agent was always ready to show a home at any time.
This excerpt explains that people yet again do not always mean what they say. The real estate agent said that the home was inaccessible, although it was. This action towards the blacks can only mean that this notion of doing what is said may just as well go hand in hand with racism. The agent through past experience or stereotyping has already assumed that the black individual does not have the money or the required attitudes to be able to live in the neighborhood.
How is society experienced? In other words, what was the difference between the black and the white experience when shopping for a home? This question can best be answered through generalization rather than through specific quotes because it is so prevalent through the article. Basically, a black person is sometimes at the mercy of the beliefs and attitudes of the real estate agent when attempting to move into a predominantly white neighborhood. Past experience, as cited other times earlier in this study, can greatly influence decision making and can also relate to the mean what you say idea. Demographics and charts have also shown statistically that white people are generally shown more and higher priced houses.(table 2) This table is a useful tool to show this point because it is raw data, not interpretation. The whites, as said earlier, got choice pick generally and found no trouble getting into particular neighborhoods. To answer the question generally, society is experienced through daily activities, which in turn lead to attitudes and perceptions that lead to possibly racism.
One can see that through studying the article , the interactionist approach to sociology is clearly used. The above questions are sufficiently answered to show how this approach relates to the article. The subject of the article is a little touchy though. What that means, is, racism by far eclipses the idea of sociology as a science. The average reader sees prejudice and not sociological issues in general. Other than that there is more than enough information in the study to get an understanding of the prevalent questions. Sociology, to me, seems to touch many important aspects of everyday life, including some ugly ones, like those in the article.