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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Marketing Whiteness: Geographies of Colorblind Liberalism


This paper examines how liberal, upper middle-class homeowners in the San Francisco Bay Area racially define and defend their neighborhoods. Based on an ethnographic study of neighborhood organizing over a one-year period, I show how homeowners simultaneously protect their identity as non-racist, liberal and open and act to exclude racial “others” through a gendered logic of caring for community. They are able to do so, I argue, only because their neighborhood is segregated, allowing them to use geographical references as a stand-in for race. Thus they are able to simultaneously critique (sometimes quite vociferously) those who target particular racial groups, while unproblematically identifying problems such as violence and sexual predation with particular geographies—geographies that are highly racialized. A localized conception of inclusive citizenship, rooted in the defense and nurturance of children, allows these exclusionary actions to be justified as not only “not racist” but as the ethical and moral duty of mothers, community members, and responsible citizens.

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