In a Chicago neighborhood made up of different racial and economic groups, nearly everyone claims to value diversity. Yet, this powerful and plastic symbol can influence political activity in opposite directions. An ethnographic study of the neighborhood shows how three different groups—white real estate professionals and politicians, white progressive organizers, and black low-income housing advocates—deploy diversity. It presents three key findings: (1) mixed-income housing often becomes a proxy for diversity; (2) the diversity concept can support progressive politics while downplaying certain racial and class disparities; and (3) a focus on neighborhood diversity can obscure issues that poor people care about, including tenants rights. By providing a microlevel perspective on diversity discourse, these findings demonstrate how a shared symbol can both illuminate and veil fundamental disagreements over race, class, inequality, and gentrification in cities today.
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