Sociology Mind
2012. Vol.2, No.2, 153-157
Published Online April 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 153
The Subtleties of Social Exclusion: Race, Social Class, and the
Exclusion of Blacks in a Racially Mixed Neighborhood
Daniel Monroe Sullivan, Jonathan Picarsic
Department of Sociology, Po rtland State University, Portland, USA
Received January 9th, 2012; revised February 13th, 2012; accepted March 12th, 2012
We use interviews, content analysis, and surveys to describe how a neighborhood association in a racially
mixed neighborhood in Portland, Oregon (USA) subtly excludes many blacks from being full members of
the neighborhood. In contrast to explicit cases of social exclusion, this neighborhood association excludes
blacks without ever referring to race. They instead justify their actions—e.g., helping close down a black
social club and discouraging more affordable housing—based on such nonracial goals as increasing
homeownership, minimizing crime, and maximizing “economic diversity”. We argue that without the in-
clusion of black residents and their neighborhood organizations (e.g., churches) in the decision-making
process, mixed-race neighborhoods will continue to lose their diversity.
Keywords: Social Inclusion; Neighborhoods; Race; Social Class; Gentrification
There are many cases of minority groups being socially ex-
cluded, based on such characteristics as race, ethnicity, caste,
gender, or sexual orientation (DFID, 2005; Freiler, 2001; Islam
& Sharmin, 2011), resulting in a lack of equal access to politi-
cal, social, and economic resources. Many of these cases are
explicit, with the exclusion codified in law or deep cultural
practices. And there have been attempts at all levels of gov-
ernment and civil society to counteract these by promoting
social inclusion (Edwards, 1999; Kay, 2005; Vargas, 2001).
This study adds to the development literature by examining a
case in which social exclusion based on race is subtle (see
Curry et al., 2011 for another example), as those with power in
a neighborhood association justi fy their actions based on wanting
to increase the “livability” and social class composition of their
neighborhood. Though they never mention race, they engage in
activities that disproportionately exclude black residents.
Neighborhood Associations in the United States
Rising neo-liberalism in the US, like in many countries—e.g.,
the UK (Powell, 2011)—has led to a decline in direct state in-
tervention and a rise in the importance of civic institutions like
NGOs (e.g., Islam & Sharmin, 2011). Although these civic
organizations may still receive financial support from the state,
they are largely left to themselves to define and solve their local
problems. In the US neighborhood associations have been in-
volved in such activities as encouraging or discouraging certain
types of local businesses (Maly, 2005), promoting or discour-
aging affordable housing (Hartigan, 1999; Kasinitz, 1988), and
reducing crime by establishing watch groups and communicat-
ing with the police (Pattillo, 2007).
The need for effective neighborhood associations is acute in
racially mixed neighborhoods because of historic institutional
discrimination against minorities, especially blacks, and the
resulting racial tension, mistrust, and economic, political and
social inequities (Massey & Denton, 1993). Neighborhood as-
sociations are especially important in neighborhoods that are
gentrifying, which is the process by which wealthier residents
move into poorer neighborhoods in sufficient numbers to change
its social class composition and neighborhood identity. Gentri-
fying neighborhoods are characterized by imbalances among
residents in terms of political, economic, and social resources
that can exacerbate inequities (Kasinitz, 1988; Martin, 2007;
Smith, 1996). Effective neighborhood associations are even
more pertinent these days as there has been in US cities a de-
cline in racial segregation and an increase in racially integrated
neighborhoods (Friedman, 2005).
The Promise of Neighborhood Associations
There are several ways in which neighborhood associations
can promote social inclusion. First, they can advocate for the
housing needs of longtime, low-income, and minority residents
(Nyden, Maly, and Lukehart, 1997), which include affordable
rental units, public housing, and institutional housing linked to
special needs (e.g., homeless shelters or drug-alcohol treatment
centers). Anderson (1990), for example, illustrates how a pre-
dominantly white neighborhood association promotes diversity
by buying, renovating, and then selling or renting affordable
housing to blacks. Brown-Saracino (2004) documents how
white residents in a racially diverse gentrifying neighborhood
organize to advocate for affordable housing and against luxury
condominiums. Robinson (1995) illustrates how residents in a
poor black neighborhood bordering a tourist district, organize
with help from local affordable housing specialists and city
government, to fight for affordable single-resident occupancy
housing and against luxury hotels.
Second, neighborhood associations can enhance social inte-
gration by supporting businesses and social service agencies
that serve the needs of poor and minority residents, promoting
multicultural events, and fostering welcoming public spaces
(Nyden, Maly, and Lukehart, 1997; Saltman, 1991). They can
organize inter-racial picnics, parties, and parades (Anderson,
1990), promote cultural activities that express pride about liv-
ing in a diverse neighborhood (Brown-Saracino, 2004), and pat-
ronize longtime businesses and discourage the opening of chain
stores (Brown-Saracino, 2004).
Third, neighborhood associations can promote diversity as an
integral part of their neighborhood’s identity (Maly, 2005; Ny-
den, Maly, & Lukehart, 1997). They can encourage the media
to write positive articles about the neighborhood (Kasinitz,
1988) and even engage in direct marketing and promotional
efforts (Saltman, 1991).
The Upshaw Neighborhood in Portland, Oregon (USA)1
If any neighborhood association were predicted to promote
social inclusion among black and white residents, the Upshaw
Neighborhood Association (UNA) in Portland, Oregon would
be a strong candidate. First, the city of Portland has a strong
system of neighborhood associations, as they are given re-
sources by the city government and are formally organized
under the city government’s Office of Neighborhood Involve-
ment (Berry et al., 1993). Portland’s neighborhood associations
are oftentimes effective in creating changes within their neigh-
borhoods. In terms of fostering racial inclusion, Portland would
seem to be a good candidate. In comparison to most US cities,
it is less racially segregated and has a larger percentage of white
residents and a smaller percentage of black residents (Renn,
2009). Scholars argue that this racial composition would lead to
white residents feeling less “racial threat,” meaning that they
would be less likely to be concerned about living in the same
neighborhood as blacks than would white residents living in
cities with more segregation and a higher percentage of black
residents (Meyers, 1990).
In terms of the Upshaw neighborhood in particular, it would
seem to be prime candidate for racial inclusion since histori-
cally it has had a significant amount of both black and white
residents. In addition, this neighborhood has a substantial
number of longtime social institutions like churches and social
service agencies, many of which support minorities. Finally,
Florida (2002) and other “creative city” advocates (e.g., Bullick
et al., 2003) claim that Portland attracts many residents who are
“creative,” “bohemian,” and are attracted to “diversity,” which
describes many white Upshaw residents particularly well.
Data and Methods
One of the authors conducted interviews with ten UNA board
members, nine members of other neighborhood institutions
such as churches and social service agencies, and eight long-
time residents who have not participated in UNA recently. In-
terviewees were recruited using snowball sampling. One of the
authors attended general and land use UNA meetings for one
year and examined their bylaws, minutes, and newsletters for
six years. We include data from a neighborhood survey con-
ducted by one of the authors. Sixty-three percent of randomly
selected housing units resulted in 217 completed surveys. Par-
ticipants were asked, among other questions, to describe their
involvement (if any) with UNA.
Social Inclusion… At First Glance
There are a number of reasons to think that UNA is socially
inclusive of black residents. First, its stated mission is to repre-
sent all residents, businesses, and organizations, whether or not
they participate in UNA. In addition, UNA advocates for vague
but seemingly inclusive goals such as securing adequate hous-
ing, creating employment opportunities, and improving the
quality of urban life. Second, all ten UNA board members who
were interviewed mention the importance of social inclusion,
often using the word “diversity.” They state that Upshaw is
currently racially diverse and they want it to remain that way.
Joe, a white homeowner and longtime UNA member, says that
“I kind of prefer to have my children grow up in an area where
there are actually black people and Mexican people and people
from Asia and so on.” Naomi, a white homeowner, states, “You
have to realize this is a racially mixed neighborhood. There’s
people from all over here; you’ve got every flavor of person
that you could imagine… I happen to love that; I just think it’s
fun.” Finally, writers for UNA’s newsletter also discuss the
importance of social inclusion and “diversity.” They wrote 17
articles during a six-year period celebrating “economic diver-
sity,” “cultural diversity,” “cultural heritage,” and “ethnic di-
versity.” They also wrote a number of articles highlighting
longtime black residents and businesses and they sponsor sev-
eral multi-cultural events at a local park.
Social Exclusion… Upon Deeper Examination
UNA, despite what initially looks like an organization that
embraces social inclusion, engages in practices that exclude
some black residents. What makes their brand of social exclu-
sion subtle is that they justify their actions using non-racial
language; they advocate for increasing homeownership, attract-
ing middle-class residents, reducing social service institutions,
and enhancing “livability.”
Lack of Racial Representation on the UNA Board of
Directors and Participants
Upshaw is a racially diverse neighborhood: about half of its
residents are white, non-Hispanic, about a third are black, and
about one-fifth are Hispanic, another race, or multi-racial. UNA
board members, in contrast, are overwhelmingly white. Eighty
percent of the twenty members of the board or land use com-
mittee are white; one is black, one is Hispanic, and two are
multi-ethnic. A random sample of 217 residents indicates that,
of those who attended one or more UNA meetings during a
twelve-month period, 87% were white, while only 13% were
Upshaw is also diverse in terms of social class. About a third
of its residents has a college degree and owns their house.
Those involved in UNA, however, are much more likely to
have a college degree and own their home. Of the ten UNA
members interviewed, 70% have a college degree and 89% own
their home; of those attending UNA meetings, 76% have a
college degree and 83% own their home.
Since many of the UNA participants are white and college
educated, we should not be surprised by their overrepresenta-
tion. That is because scholars have found that white, col-
lege-educated residents tend to be “organizationally dependent”:
they participate more in formal neighborhood organizations and
less in informal interactions (Crenshaw & St. John, 1989). They
are effective operating in formal organizations due to their dis-
position (e.g., a sense of agency and entitlement), skills, and
1Names of the neighborhood , organi zatio ns, and individuals have been chan ged to
protect privacy .
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
resources (human, financial, social, and cultural capital). They
possess, for example, the skills, comfort level, and trust to deal
effectively with the city government, police, and other formal
institutions. Those who are less educated and poorer, especially
racial minorities, often feel less comfortable, competent, and
trusting of formal institutions. They may also not have the right
kind of cultural capital—e.g., speech patterns, dress style, and
other cues that symbolize belonging to the middle class—to fit
in (Schneider, 2006). This unequal distribution of skills and
comfort level helps explain why Saltman (1991) finds neigh-
borhood associations in 15 racially diverse neighborhoods
throughout the US having limited participation from poor and
minori ty residents.
The overrepresentation of white professionals in neighbor-
hood associations is important because most are homeowners,
so they focus on raising property values [e.g., promoting retail
and historic preservation (Brown-Saracino, 2004; Hartigan,
1999; Kasinitz, 1988) and removing graffiti and other signs of
disorder (Maly, 2005; Pattillo, 2007)]. In contrast, nonprofes-
sionals, especially minorities, tend to emphasize informal social
relations. St. John & Clark (1984) find that black and lower-
class residents place more importance on social cohesion and
neighborhood services; Lee and Campbell (1997) find that
blacks, the unemployed, and longtime residents are more likely
to invoke a social definition of a neighborhood.
Second, in cases like ours where the white professionals are
gentrifiers researchers have found that they (and their neigh-
borhood associations)—although tolerant of middle-class mi-
norities (Berrey, 2005; Reed, 1999)—are less tolerant of poor
residents (Pattillo, 2007), especially minorities living in low-
income housing (Kasinitz, 1988: Robinson, 1995) or institu-
tional housing (Hartigan, 1999; Maly, 2005).
Social Exclusion fro m N ei g h bo rhood Or g a ni zations
That Serve Black Residents
A number of other neighborhood organizations serve disad-
vantaged residents, many of whom are black; UNA could pro-
mote social inclusion indirectly by supporting these organiza-
tions. Managers and workers at six of these organizations,
however, make it clear that UNA is what Meyer and Hyde
(2004) call “insular”; UNA does not support them and they
have limited contact. Only one of the six organizations cur-
rently has any contact with UNA, and that is only to obtain a
permit for an annual park event. Of the eight people inter-
viewed from the six organizations, none attend UNA meetings
and few read their newsletter.
Three organizations that assist the poor and minorities ex-
press negative feelings towards UNA. An administrator at the
Manna House, which provides food and clothing to those in
need, feels that UNA should be more supportive of their or-
I would like to see… people in the community connect with
agencies like Manna House or All Saints (another neighbor-
hood organization)… Just kind of embrace it and see how they
can assist. Because were feeding someone… that means theyre
not out robbing. So you need people to look at the big picture.
So, to raise the profile of her organization, she approached
UNA about running a story about her organization in their
newsletter. They denied her request, telling her that “Oh yeah,
you have a good story, but everybody has a story.”
An administrator at All Saints, which provides support ser-
vices to the neighborhood poor, is also critical of UNA. He
feels that UNA should care about needy residents:
[W]e feed (a lot of) people… through this organization. If
anybody should have cared about whats going on, (UNA)
should have cared about what were doing, to enhance our
ability to meet the needs of those who are less fortunate. So,
why did they not pursue us? Why are they not enabling us? Why
are they not helping us meet our mission when, in fact, we are
taking care of the things that most people like to pretend dont
An employee of a business that assists black businesses and
homeowners claims that most black residents are not even
aware of the existence of UNA. And even if blacks did partici-
pate, they would not have any influence because they do not
have money. Another employee at the same business argues
that UNA is run by white newcomers who are only concerned
about advancing their own interests:
[P]eople move into this community… and the next day
theyre the neighborhood association, so theyre trying to tell
you… how this neighborhood should be run. And thats a prob-
lem… Theyre all…against this and that, and none of them had
grown up in this neighborhood… Do they really care about the
Not all neighborhood organizations interviewed dislike UNA.
One of the six organizations, a predominantly black church that
offers social services to the needy, has little contact with, and
no opinion of, UNA. The administrator interviewed used to
read their newsletter but nothing “caught his attention”. An
administrator at another local church that assists the needy said
that his church has no contact with UNA. He reads their news-
letter, however, and feels that they are doing “great things”.
Finally, two workers at a community center have participated in
UNA in the past and they hold positive opinions of that organi-
Given the social exclusion within UNA, and between UNA
and neighborhood organizations that support blacks, it is not
surprising that their actions in the neighborhood exclude black
residents and ultimately take actions that hurt them. Below are
two examples that illustrate this dynamic: UNA limiting low-
income and institutional housing and helping close down a
black social club.
Limiting Low-Income and Institutional Housing
Many low-income and minority residents do not own their
own home; rather, they reside in apartments, public housing, or
institutional housing that assists people in need. UNA discour-
ages more of these types of housing. It adopted a policy, in fact,
to oppose more subsidized housing for households earning less
than 50% of the median income. Many UNA members are
concerned that these residents commit crimes, consume drugs
and alcohol, and increase neighborhood instability. An UNA
board member wrote an article in its newsletter advocating for
“economic diversity”. Like the developers in Berrey’s (2005)
study, he states that “low and very low income units” and insti-
tutions such as “social service organizations, government agen-
cies for the dysfunctional, and new churches” are preventing
the neighborhood from achieving economic diversity. Appar-
ently their presence also damages the neighborhood’s reputa-
tion. He argues that there are only a few needy residents but the
“dumping” of institutions that serve the needy are “perpetuating
the image of Upshaw as perpetually depressed”. He advocates
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 155
for other neighborhoods taking more of these institutions so
that “as the growing economy changes our neighborhood…
(UNA policies) shape future development in a balanced way
that ensures diversity across the spectrum of issues”. Although
the author does not mention race, many of the clients of these
institutions are black and the majority of neighborhood c hurches
have predominantly black members.
Other UNA board members agree that the amount of social
service agencies and low-income apartments damage the neigh-
borhood’s quality of life, but they completely avoid the topic of
race. As William says:
It is not a very charitable view, but I think that there are too
many social service agency, nonprofit types in the neighbor-
hood. It tends to create this overarching sort of, this hospital
ward feel.
Joe expresses similar views:
[T]he low-income housing is kind of a destabilizing element.
Theres a lot of people who are transients. Theyre in that
housing because they dont have a lot of money and eventually
they get kicked out of the places. So, new people move in. A lot
of them have crummy friends that deal drugs and stuff like that,
and those are detrimental…
However, a few board members do not view renters, includ-
ing those in low-income and institutional housing, as the main
source of neighborhood instability. They blame, instead, white,
middle-class gentrifiers who are looking to make a profit from
their short stay in the neighborhood. Anne, a longtime board
member, states:
Remember, the aim behind the neighborhood association
was to bring up the level of income in the neighborhood. Their
feeling was…that there were too many low-income people in
the neighborhood, and… they wanted more affluent people…
(so) that it would be technically more stable. But Im not too
sure thats true… A lot of the newer people… stay here a year
or two years or three, and they sell… So I dont know how
much stabilizing that has done because a lot of these houses
that have been here for a long time… they rented for thirty
years… They didnt have money to buy, and the people they
rented from didnt want to sell. The landlord was good; the
tenant was good. The tenant would paper the house, paint the
house, and do all those things because they planned on staying
there until they died.
Doris also attributes instability to gentrifiers, arguing that
they shape the neighborhood to their liking and then leave:
There are white people that move here and spend a certain
amount of time and mold the neighborhood in their own image
and move out. I have spoken out against that a number of times
and got in all kinds of trouble. There is a pattern. People will
move here and fix up a house. When their kids get old enough
to go to school, they move out. Or, when they have kids, they
dont want their kids in an all-black school.
Closing Down a Black Social Club
Joe and Marlene’s Club was a private black club established
in the 1950s. By the 1990s, it was one of the last black-owned
businesses in the neighborhood. Starting in the early 1990s,
some newly arrived white gentrifiers complained about noise,
loitering, fights, and drug dealing. Here are two examples of the
many letters they wrote to the liquor license board:
I am a homeowner living adjacent to Joe and Marlenes
Club. I am VERY disappointed that you have granted a liquor
license to this business. The restrictions which accompany this
license… will not suffice nor keep the patrons nor owners nor
managers accountable… We, as residents, have a right to live
in the neighborhood and NOT be affected by the unacceptable
behavior of Joe and Marlenes patrons who are under the in-
fluence of intoxicants.
Another angry resident believes that the neighborhood is
“improving” and views the social club as an impediment to
further improvement:
I believe it would be beneficial to the [Upshaw] neighbor-
hood if the social clubs liquor license were not to be renewed.
This area is improving more and more… Places like Joe and
Marlenes Club are only a detriment to this progress.
Many of the complaining residents turned to UNA for assis-
tance. UNA responded by negotiating a series of agreements
with the club. The first agreements dealt with earlier closing
times, increased security during the summer, and trash removal.
When the complaining residents were not satisfied with the
results of these changes, UNA and the social club negotiated
further agreements, including raising the minimum age of pa-
trons. This last move, however, proved financially costly to the
club since it meant a reduction in patrons.
UNA initially served as a mediator between the club and
complaining neighbors; however, they later took more direct
actions to shut down the club: they discouraged renewing the
club’s liquor license and the club’s proposal to change the
venue to live jazz music. One longtime board member states
that the city government, which includes the liquor license
board, was more influenced by UNA’s opinion than those ex-
pressed by club’s proponents. When there were hearings at City
Hall to discuss renewal of the club’s liquor license, she felt that
UNA had more of what Martin (2007) calls “external legiti-
macy” than the proponents: “The whole idea is the neighbor-
hood (association’s) concerns carry a lot of weight with city
council… because they… are the official… representative (of
the neighborhood).”
An interview with a past UNA board member suggests that
the current board is disrespectful of the neighborhood’s history
and culture and is racially insensitive and exclusive. She says
that before gentrification started, UNA was more respectful:
About eight years ago, there was a brief upset with… Joe
and Marlenes Club. Theres been a lot of upset about that
place attracting people, the noise level, and the concern about
gangs and just general neighborhood upset. I can understand it
for people that live (close to the club), but I also thought that
the response of the pretty much all-white neighborhood asso-
ciation was not respectful. The fact that thats been a club here
for fifty to sixty years, predating all of us, and some slack has to
be given… When I (was part of UNA) we seemed OK with Joe
and Marlenes Club. In fact, we decided as a group that we
would go there and have our social hour after our board meet-
ings. At first, it was very awkward and then after it was very
comfortable… [W]hen I talked to (current UNA board members)
I was amazed at the lack of tolerance.
In the end, the club owners did not attempt to renew their
liquor license and the club closed shortly after. To date, the
building remains vacant and there are almost no remaining
places for black residents to sociali ze in the neig hborhood.
Scholars and activists clamor for the need for greater social
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 157
inclusion of different types of minorities. Given the rise of neo-
liberalism, and therefore the rise in importance of local civic
institutions to define and solve their own problems, it is impor-
tant to examine the ways in which they do and do not promote
social inclusion. This is especially important in U.S. cities since
they have a growing number of racially mixed neighborhoods,
some of which are in the process of gentrifying.
On the surface, UNA seems to answer the “social inclusion”
call: its charter states that the interests of all neighborhood
residents are important, regardless of their participation; and the
UNA board members and their newsletter claim to embrace the
ethos of diversity. In reality, however, this is a case of subtle
social exclusion: UNA claim to embrace black residents, but
engage in actions that exclude and hurt them, without ever
mentioning race in their justification.
What is needed is more inclusion of black residents of all so-
cial classes in defining and advancing common neighborhood
goals. This is a challenging task given limited racial trust and
cross-cultural competence. The clearest way of establishing
inter-racial cooperation and inclusion, or what Weisinger and
Salipante (2005) call “racially bridging ties”, is for UNA to
collaborate with other neighborhood organizations that already
have strong bonding ties with poor and black residents (see also
Warren, 2001). Leaders of neighborhood organizations such as
social service agencies and churches have a clear idea of the
needs and interests of poor and black residents and have ex-
perience in how to interact with them (Cnaan, Boddie, & Mc-
Grew, 2006).
The risk for UNA of establishing ties with other neighbor-
hood organizations is that it may have to modify its agenda.
However, if UNA becomes more receptive to the needs and
interests of all its residents and finds ways to establish in-
ter-organizational ties with those working with the poor and
blacks, it could be a strong force in facilitating genuine social
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