Am trying to wrap up a paper on how religious affiliation/involvement is related to close interracial friendship during the college years. It’s a follow-up to a paper (under review) where I found (when controlling for pre-college friendship diversity, high school racial composition, college racial composition, and other stuff) that being involved with a religious student organization had the strongest association with having at least one close friend of another race (out of the 7 co-curricular activities that I controlled for) by the third year of college–and the association was negative (meaning that students involved in religious orgs are significantly less likely to have a close friend of another race during college). I wasn’t particularly surprised at the finding, given the extensive literature on racial divisions in religious communities, but I was surprised that the association was stronger than the (also significant and negative) associations between the dependent variable and being involved in Greek life or an ethnic student org.
So in this paper I wanted to control for some extra variables re: religious engagement, self-rated religiosity, religious affiliation, etc…and more or less, they’re all significant and negatively associated with the DV. As I’m proofreading the paper (which is what I should be doing instead of blogging about it probably…) I’m thinking back to Emerson and Smith’s argument that the core values of “individualism (an insistence on seeing people as raceless “individuals” rather than members of a social category), relationalism (making interpersonal relationships paramount), and antistructuralism (inability or refusal to perceive accept social structural influences) work in conjunction with each other to promote colorblindness and resist race-consciousness in religious and societal contexts. Relationalism and antistructuralism in particular work together to perpetuate colorblindness when evangelicals believe that individual friendships are the best way to promote racial harmony (“I have an African-American friend”), as opposed to actually recognizing the need to diagnose and combat structural inequality.” [I’m just copy/pasting from my paper b/c I’m too lazy to paraphrase my paraphrase]
So Emerson and Smith argue that evangelicals basically think you can “friend away” racial divisions, which is why they resist recognizing structural inequalities (and accordingly, structural solutions to inequality). But what I’m finding is that college students who identify as Protestant, who are involved in religious student organizations, and who self-identify as highly religious (and also those who are White)…are significantly less likely to have even one close friend of another race during college. Considering that 75% of students in the sample self-report having at least one close friend of another race during college, this is curious.
Now mind you, McPherson et al. (2006) found that only 15% of American adults report having a friend of another race with whom they discussed important matters, so close interracial friendship goes way down after college. (sigh) But it’s a little funny to think how (White and probably to some extent Asian American) evangelicals are so stuck on friending away racial divisions when they have the most homogeneous friendship groups (during college at least, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it persisted into later years given McPherson et al.’s finding…Erica Wong, you need to study this). Hm. Okay, back to editing.