How Dogs Help Keep Multiracial Neighborhoods Socially Segregated

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Yves here. Wow, this is a finding I would never have expected. Shows what I know about dogs, or more accurately, dog owners.

By Sarah Mayorga-Gallo, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts Boston. Originally published at The Conversation

Cities in the United States are getting less segregated and, according to a recent national survey, most Americans value the country’s racial diversity.

But the demographic integration of a neighborhood doesn’t necessarily mean that neighbors of different races are socializing together.

Diverse urban areas remain socially segregated in part because white gentrifiers and long-time residents have differing economic interests. And the racial hierarchies of the United States are simply not erased when black and white people share the same space.

White residents of multicultural areas tend to overlook inequality in their neighborhoods, studies show. That further reinforces racial barriers.

My sociological research in one such multicultural neighborhoodidentifies a more surprising vehicle of racial segregation: dogs.

‘A Very Doggie Neighborhood’

I spent 18 months studying Creekridge Park, a diverse and mixed-income area of Durham, North Carolina, to understand how black, white and Latino residents interacted with each other. Between 2009 and 2011, I interviewed 63 residents, attended neighborhood events and conducted a household survey.

I learned that white, black and Latino residents led rather separate social lives in Creekridge Park. Eighty-six percent of white people said their closest friends were white, and 70% of black residents surveyed reported that their best friends were black.

One black resident lamented that neighbors weren’t as “friendly as I had hoped and thought that they would be – or at least, this image I had in my head of what ‘friendly’ would be like.”

White, black and Latino people in Creekridge Park even had different experiences with something as seemingly innocuous as pet ownership.

Many white residents described friendships growing as a result of walking their dogs around the neighborhood, with chance encounters on the sidewalk turning into baseball games, dinners and even vacations together.

“It’s the dogs that are our connectors,” said Tammy, a white homeowner in her fifties. “That’s how a lot of us have gotten to know each other.”

Such positive interactions did not necessarily happen across racial boundaries. More often, I found, dogs reinforced boundaries.

When Jerry, a black homeowner in his sixties, stopped to chat with some dog-owning customers, who were white, in the outdoor seating area of a neighborhood bakery, the staff asked him to leave.

“I owned some dogs like that at one particular time. And I was just speaking to them. All of a sudden, I’m a panhandler,” Jerry said, incredulous and hurt.

Jerry is a black disabled veteran who was wearing his old army uniform that day. He figures they thought he was begging for money.

The dogs didn’t create the interracial boundaries at the bakery, which caters to a primarily white, middle-class clientele. In fact, the dogs presented an avenue to connect black and white neighbors. But they gave bakery staff a reason to intervene, to maintain interracial boundaries.

Neighborhood Watch

The treatment of dogs in Creekridge Park also divided neighbors of different races.

Tammy, the same resident who said dogs served as “connectors” in the neighborhood, disliked that her Latino neighbors wouldn’t let their dog into the house, leaving her tied up in the backyard.

Tethering dogs is a common practice in Durham, NC.

One day, when she heard her neighbor’s dog barking, she decided to monitor their backyard with binoculars, to make sure the dog was OK. When the father spotted her doing her surveillance, Tammy lied. She said she was looking at a different dog.

Tammy was not, however, embarrassed when recounting this story. She felt she was justified in considering the dog’s well-being. She offered the family a bigger dog house and began to take the dog on hour-long walks twice a day. Eventually, she adopted the dog as her own.

Tammy said that she always intervened whenever she saw dogs mistreated in the neighborhood. However, the only examples she shared during our interview involved Latino families.

Latino families are not the only Creekridge Park residents who tied up their dogs. The practice is common enough across Durham that a local group was formed in 2007 to build free dog fences.

Police Come ‘Almost Immediately’

Several white residents of Creekridge Park have even reported their neighbors to the police for suspected animal abuse.

Emma, a white homeowner in her thirties, called the police when she thought her neighbors were involved in dog fighting.

They “came almost immediately,” she said.

Generally, Emma told me, if she knows her neighbors, she will confront them directly about problems she perceives. Otherwise, she prefers to call the police.

Given how segregated friendship networks are in Creekridge Park, this seemingly non-racial distinction between “known” and “unknown” neighbors means that in practice Emma involved police in conflicts only with black and Latino neighbors.

Dogs can connect neighbors – but they can also divide them. Shutterstock

How White People Enforce Their Rules

This white willingness to report non-white neighbors for “unruly” behavior recalls numerous recent incidents nationwide in which white people have called the police on black people for perfectly legal activities.

In July 2018 a white woman in San Francisco threatened an 8-year-old black girl for “illegally selling water without a permit.” A few months before, a white woman dubbed by internet users as “BBQ Becky” called the cops on a black family barbecuing in an Oakland park for using an “unauthorized” charcoal grill.

Other examples of white people using police to enforce their unspoken social norms have occurred at Starbucks, a Yale University dorm and a Texas swimming pool.

In U.S. neighborhoods, middle- and upper-class white residents enjoy a privileged social position by virtue of their race and class. They understand that police, local businesses and government agencies exist to serve them – the same social institutions that often underserve or even target racial minorities.

By drawing arbitrary lines between right and wrong, insider and outsider – even good pet owner and bad – white people like Tammy and BBQ Becky use that power to try to shape diverse neighborhoods into their preferred mold.

As a result of white residents’ focus on their own comfort in diverse places, racial inequality can pervade everyday life – even, my research shows, when walking the dog.

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  1. Jesper

    The one and only interesting thing for me in this study was the anecdote that when people saw a man in his 60s wearing his (or a) military uniform then they assumed he was a beggar. Is that a common assumption? If it is common, what does that say about the most respected (I’ve read that it is, possibly it is not true?) institution in the US and how it treats its people? What are the reasons for that respect?

    For the rest:

    The dogs didn’t create the interracial boundaries at the bakery, which caters to a primarily white, middle-class clientele. In fact, the dogs presented an avenue to connect black and white neighbors. But they gave bakery staff a reason to intervene, to maintain interracial boundaries.

    How did the dog give a reason to intervene? I can’t quite follow the logic, would the staff not have intervened if there was no dog?

    1. dearieme

      If I were one of the customers I hope that I would have asked the restaurant staff to leave the old boy alone, and indeed I hope I’d have ordered a coffee and cake for him.

      But then I don’t know any of the circumstances beyond her brief description, and I don’t even know if that’s true.

      1. a different chris

        >and indeed I hope I’d have ordered a coffee and cake for him.

        Well good try and well meaning…but I’m not even black — and yet if I were I think I would wince a bit at your phrasing. How about “I would ask him to sit down with me”. Because you know, he can probably afford a “coffee and cake” if he wanted.

        1. Nordberg

          Bless your heart dearieme, in the future, please don’t use the word “boy” when talking about an African American man.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      The dogs did not provide a “reason” for anything. The dogs were/are exploited as a excuse for people looking for any excuse. The staff at that restaurant would have looked for any other excuse for ordering the Black veteran to beat it and scram.

      If the Black and Latino residents weren’t afraid of police persecution and occasional recreational police murder, they might well launch a campaign of calling the police on their white neighbors for any excuse they could find. Fear would prevent them from doing that, however. And the National Black Race-Hustler Organizations won’t lend the local Black and Latino residents any support if they should try such countermeasures anyway. So such countermeasures won’t be tried.

      It makes me wonder if subtle measures of untraceable sabotage and untraceable vandalism might be called for . . . as long as it were really untraceable. And it could mysteriously stop when the White nastiness against Black and Latino residents stopped.

  2. Piotr K

    Article start about dogs, didnt unroll this topic and ends with “white supremacy”.
    I don’t quite follo, why it appears on NC.

      1. tokyodamage

        Me too. Seems more like a ‘woke clickbait’ article, and there’s no shortage of other websites that churn those out.
        Meanwhile, I gotta go chain my dog in my backyard, which will make me less racist.

    1. diptherio

      Need a match to go with your strawman? Those words appear nowhere in the article. Try ctrl+f, it’s real handy.

      This article documents some particular aspects of racial relations in this country. I’m sorry that makes you uncomfortable…oh wait, no I’m not.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        The white privilege trope is as racist as any anti-Semitic or anti-immigrant or anti-people of color trope.
        This article is full of racist generalities and folksy anecdotes…for example, the “black” vet being shoo-ed away from the “white” customers. The author uses that example as evidence of racism but doesn’t bother to dig any further. Questions left unanswered: Does the area have a large panhandling population? Is harassment by homeless a common occurrence at this outdoor seating area? How disheveled was the vet? Would the staff have treated a similarly dressed disabled white man the same? I can imagine circumstances and situations that might clarify that encounter as neither racist nor inappropriate. I’ve certainly been mistaken for homeless after a long day of work. I’ve certainly been given the hairy eyeball by upper class whites AND poor blacks in my neighborhood.

        I live in a rougher part of Oakland. I see all kinds of law-breaking from littering to assault. 95% of the culprits I encounter are black (I am white). And the attitude, if I dare speak up, is “Mind your own f’n business or violence is to come!” Calling the cops would quickly become the first choice for many people.The “BBQ Becky” incident (which occurred in Oakland) was a white woman who was right about the “illegality” of charcoal barbecuing at that area of Lake Merrit and who, being ignored by the scofflaws, called the cops. Over the top? Sure, she could have just ignored it. But rather than focus on the frustrations of people who follow the law with those who don’t, the incident became a victim-playing racist trope about white privilege and the cops “who serve them”. In just about every example the cops don’t “serve the whites” and don’t even issue citations let alone arrest anybody.
        The trope shows up repeatedly in this article that claims to be about dog ownership.

        Racism exists. And “white privilege” is a racist dog whistle as bad as calling blacks lazy, Welfare milking thugs or calling Mexicans anchor-baby dropping gardeners.

        Fighting racism with racism is just nonsense.

        1. Ander

          Buddy, unless your neighborhood is 95% black, or close to it, I doubt “95% of the culprits are black”. White drug users are less likely to go to prison for drug offenses, are more likely to be born into wealthier families, and tend to have access to better funded schools. All of these are ‘white privilege’ none of them make the world easy for white folks, especially poor white folks.

          I’m white, I work full time and I’ve lived at or below the poverty line since I was born, I get that hearing narratives on white privilege can feel frustrating when you’re struggling, but that frustration doesn’t erase very real systemic inequity.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            “White” privileges? Those sound like “class” privileges to me. But that could be what you meant all along.

            I would like to see a study done on each illegal drug of mass consumption, drug by drug by drug. What percent of the money made selling cocaine is made by selling it to the poor people of Ghettowood? And what percent of the money made by selling cocaine is made by selling it to the middle class and rich people of Hollywood, Fashionwood, Musicwood, etc? And I would like to see the same revenue-stream-percentages broken out by social class for heroin, meth, etc.

            Perhaps the Law Enforcement Industrial Complex does not enforce drug laws against the middle class and rich users because it dares not do so. Perhaps the International Narco-Industrial Complex and the International Drug Money Laundering-Industrial Complex would never allow it.

            It sure would be nice to see all those figures broken out like what I suggest.

            ” Richie Rich keep on moving. This is a Poor neighborhood”.
            ” God help you Richie Rich if you let the sun set on you here.”

  3. anon in so cal

    In the vein of critical race theory, whose central premise holds that social ills largely result from white privilege? Plenty of assertions….

  4. Shiloh1

    Longtime lurker here. Lived in Chicago by The Stockyards once upon a time, inner ring west burb Berwyn then further west.

    You have tethered – backyard dogs vs walked dogs thing consistent with what I see / saw, walked dogs in neighborhoods thriving.

    Where I am at now I also see manicured, golf course type lawns regularly sporting the lawn chemical warning sign and Tesla, Audi or Beemer. Next town over, with same race mix, but apparently less money, with normal to raggedy lawn, no chemical signs either. Both plenty of dog walkers. The rich one had the pedigree yip-yappers, and “invisible fence” front yards, which sometimes near tragically don’t work. The other many woff-woffer rescues of various types. Don’t normally have one dog type go near the other nor trust invisible fence with Richie Rich dog in front.

    Perhaps this is once again more about wealth than race or ethnicity.

    1. The Pale Scot

      Terriers, other working breeds blow right thru those things if they think they’re on the job, Squirrel!!

    2. diptherio

      I think it’s obviously both, as the article implies: “middle- and upper- income white people”, etc. I live in a very largely white community and plenty of this rings true with my experience here. People have unspoken norms — and those norms vary greatly and often along class lines — and those with political/economic power seek to impose their norms on everyone else (often under the assumption that their norms are the only “correct” ones, i.e. with good intentions). The result is that those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder get harassed by the authorities and made to feel unwelcome in their community. When you live in a more diverse area, this is also going to result in Black and Latino people disproportionately getting the short end of the LEO stick, since we have such a large overlap between skin tone/ethnicity and economic and social advantage in our country.

  5. Joe Well

    I am glad to see Sociology in NC.

    I am disappointed that this piece does not mention socioeconomic status, income, wealth, length of time in the neighborhood, etc. The white people are implied to be higher income gentrifiers but she never explores this or even states this explicitly. Money and socioeconomic status are taboo subjects in our media, even the progressive media, but are standard fare in sociology. It is sad to see the author just collapse all this into “race” which is infuriatingly what the MSM does.

    1. Krystyn Walentka


      I live in Carrboro, NC and am frequently in Durham. It is so silly they think it is about dogs. It is about class and dogs serve only as a signal of class.

      The money has poured into Durham because no one could afford Chapel Hill and Carrboro anymore. and I have several white friends who I openly chastise about how they are they problem, not the saviors, of the poor in Durham.

      To make this about dogs is to look for a cause that is not about class and to serve as an excuse for neoliberals to keep disrupting these people’s lives.

      1. diptherio

        Did you read the article? It’s obviously about way more than dogs, that’s just the “in.” Admittedly, the article title could be better and is a bit click-baity but your criticism doesn’t actually seem to address the article…just the headline.

    2. diptherio

      She mentions class a number of times…perhaps you missed it? The focus of this article is on social segregation along racial lines, i.e. it has a particular scope. Your complaint seems to be that the issue has more aspects than she covered in this article, but that’s obviously true about everything. There are many, many ways this line of inquiry could be expanded, but expecting this one article to cover all of them is absurd. Don’t see your perspective/concerns addressed in the article, add them in the comment section, but don’t rip on the author for not writing the article that you would have. That’s just bad form.

      1. Joe Well

        Let me speak more precisely: I am disappointed that she mentioned economic dimensions only in an offhand way at the end rather than using it as an essential tool of analysis as is the norm in sociology. If you think that socioeconomic issues are just another concern in studying society, I do not know what to say to you. Failing to analyze socioeconomic factors is at least as egregious as omitting race.

        1. flora

          I agree. It’s not uncommon to see dogs owned as much for their working ability as their affectionate pet possibilities in some households. The dogs have a job to do: guard the house and bark at intruders; alert the homeowner a prowler may be outside. Not everyone can afford pricey, monthly-fee, home protection services. Chaining a dog to its doghouse with a decently long lead doesn’t automatically mean the dogs are being mistreated.
          My 2 cents.

      2. Krystyn Walentka

        I read the article twice. Mentioning class is not the same as seeing it as a cause. The article focuses on race as a cause.

        1. Piotr K.

          Marks will just dress it in more poethicall words, adding struggle and warfare once or twice.

  6. Henry Moon Pie

    As a resident of a poor-to-working-class, ethnically diverse neighborhood in a Rust Belt city, the antics of the gentrifiers just make me shake my head. What a way to get to know your neighbors. I would like to point out a couple of things from my perspective.

    First, these gentrifiers’ likes and dislikes are often as much class-based as race-based. Gentrifiers are used to manicured lawns and empty porches. They are not used to seeing cars under repair, DYI house projects that take some time to complete and any outside noise beyond the sweet, sweet sound of moving automobiles. Our area is not gentrifying, at least not yet, but what I hear and read from the gentrifying portions of our city is that these hoity toities are quick to complain to city authorities about the kind of activities that are engaged in by us less affluent. An example: a friend repairs small engines in his garage to make a little extra cash. Neighbors have reported him for having an excess of lawn mowers sitting outside that garage.

    Second, dogs serve a security purpose in urban neighborhoods like ours. I’m a regular attendee at our ward meetings, and we always have several police officials attending because crime is the top concern among those present (an overwhelming majority of whom are AA as is our councilman). On multiple occasions, police responded to complaints about burglaries with the recommendation that the victim get a dog. According to them, they are an effective deterrent.

    Third, interracial relations in our neighborhood are quite complex and volatile. One family across the street is multi-racial: white and AA. Two doors down from us, and also across the street from the multi-racial family, is a white fellow, a 50-ish Marine vet, who objects to interracial relationships. He’s spent two stretches in jail for hate speech in the past few years, and his reputation for racism is widespread around the neighborhood. Two summers ago, there was a frightening confrontation between a crowd of African Americans and this fellow that reached near riot levels before the police arrived and arrested the white guy.

    Generally, there is little socialization among the ethnic groups in the neighborhood, which includes long-time eastern European residents, Appalachian whites, African Americans, Chinese and Koreans. Another neighbor and I are currently working to change that through the Neighborhood Connections program that assists citizens with establishing small groups to tackle neighborhood issues. Progress is slow, but we’re working on it, and the assistance we’re getting from Neighborhood Connections is valuable.

    1. Judith

      Two unrelated thoughts.

      I have heard that community gardens, in addition to providing the pleasures and rewards of working hard to raise fruits, vegetables, and flowers, can be a way of bringing people together, if done right. I volunteered with The Food Project in Boston for a number of years and found the work and the community building really inspiring.

      Right to repair. We cannot keep throwing stuff out; we have to repair and make do with what we have. That means making a mess and then cleaning up the mess when the work is done. Yards should be places to play and work, not some picture-perfect green rug.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Agree…to a point.
        Right to repair? Absolutely. Right to run a repair shop in a residential neighbor? Maybe. Right to turn your yard into a mechanic’s junkyard? No way.

        And some would say I’m just enforcing my “cultural norms” on “lower class” people.
        I say it’s common respect for your community/neighbors.

        1. super extra

          isn’t it also about property values too though? and the implied lower value of a home-junkyard (or living in a neighborhood with active panhandlers, or tethered dogs, or dog fighting). Like Lambert says, houses are not wealth. agree with many of the commenters above that this is a class issue more than a race issue.

        2. Joe Well

          Home junkyard=good for environment. Lawn = bad for environment.

          Give me the home junkyard!

        3. drumlin woodchuckles

          What if that yard were surrounded by a three-shrub-deep screen of various super-dense evergreens . . . arborvitae, Port Orford cedar, hedge-y yews, red juniper, certain spruces/firs, etc? Planted on 60 degree offset packing centers so that they formed a living green brick-wall screen of true vision blockage?

          Would it be okay then?

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Poorish stable residents of poorish stable neighborhoods not yet gentrified need to work out a way of making the “first gentrifiers” feel so hated and unwelcome and fearful that the “first gentrifiers” give up and leave. Residents of poorish neighborhoods might consider considering their neighborhoods’ status as “tough” or “bad” neighborhoods as part of the “full spectrum defense” that poorish people will have to mount against gentry yuppie aggression and invasion.

      Gentrifier keep on moving. This is a Poorish neighborhood.

      God help you hipster yuppie if the sun sets on you here.

  7. johnnygl

    I suspect expectations around how pets get treated rise with income status. Pets get royal treatment from white people with discretionary income. Judgement is passed on those who don’t deliver a similar level of royal treatment.

    Similar things happen with children and child care. Can’t afford after school activities? Don’t have time to read or do homework with your kids because you work 2nd or 3rd shift? You’re going to get judged.

    Lump all this under ‘policing poverty’.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Calling the cops? Dumb.

        BUT…imagine if you’re a frustrated neighbor and then the neighbor of your irritation hires kids who blow grass clippings on your property…now imagine you’re an older single woman and you know you can’t talk to them because you don’t see eye to eye…

        It’s not hard to see how a situation could get to where you call the cops.

        The media has found a meme that gets clicks. Neighbors call cops on neighbors every day in every shade of color.
        Again, racism exists. But this “white calls cops on blacks doing nothin'” ain’t really the issue.

        1. El Justo

          It is an issue, for some people. Namely, the black people who have cops called on them for sitting in a Starbucks. Just because it doesn’t affect you personally, doesn’t mean it’s not an issue.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            What if all the people ( each and every one) who called / calls the cops on the non-criminal black people sitting in Starbuckses . . . all started dying of mysterious and incurable cancers? What if it happened every single time to every single fake call caller?

            Would it remain an issue?

  8. DJG

    I periodically post this column from Michael Harriot of The Root on my Facebook page.

    White people, at least here on the North Side of Chicago, seem to believe that they are making connections. Yet much of the behavior around dogs is almost absurdly self-indulgent: White people running the dog into you as you walk past. White people walking the dog down the main street of the neighborhood when the street is crowded with people on foot. White people bringing the dog into the farmers market, the local stores–and the Walgreen’s (yes, where the pharmacists are vaccinating people).

    But the astounding thing–and here is where economics comes into play–are the two super-upscale dog stores on Clark Street with treats in the window that work out to $20.00 a pound. This in a neighborhood that has a good deal of hidden poverty.

    Has anyone done a serious analysis of how much the dog economy involves? Billions of dollars? Trillions? And should this money (heresy!) be spent on other pressing needs rather than on “fur babies”?

    And, cave canem, I was brought up around dogs. But what I see now aren’t dogs so much as cultural, economic, and racial signifiers on an expensive leash.

    1. Lee

      I love dogs but owners of toy breeds rarely bother to train them probably because they are so easily jerked about on their leashes. The little ones are often hyper aggressive compulsive yappers. My pibble, who is generally sociable toward other dogs does not like little dogs. At an off-leash dog park she was once set upon by three minipins viciously yapping and nipping her from all sides. At first paralyzed by sheer disbelieving surprise she rallied and sent them running for their lives. She caught one, pinned it to the ground, snapped her jaws several times close to the dogs face and released it chastened and terrified but otherwise unharmed. The owner of the minipins with a heavy German accent scolded me for owning a vicious breed of dog. My only response was a prolonged bout of laughter, followed by a few choice words.

  9. Wukchumni

    It doesn’t always play out like this around these parts, but often if a home has a few visible Pit Bulls in the yard, it may be a grow house.

  10. Danny

    One doesn’t need to know about dogs or dog-owners to understand gentrification. Now that Yves has moved to Birmingham–a gentrifying and progressive blue dot in the rural/suburban south–I hope the ways that urban progressives control cities will be explored further. In such cities, we’ve moved from Jim Crow (segregation via urban renewal) to Jim Gray (segregation via neoliberal gentrification). Race is a factor as in Jim Crow, but in Jim Gray it’s mainly about class. Dogs, art, music, technology–these are the progressive birdwhistles for assuming control of areas.

    I see this in my own upper-south city, where local urban politics and control of space tilt decidedly in the way of catering to people who, when we speak nationally, are part of the team/tribe most vocally fighting against ‘evil’ Republicans. It’s one of the most unremarked upon causes of government gridlock and all-around clown-car tomfoolery: the people against corporate and racial oppression nationally are the very ones who produce it on the ground in their local habitats.

  11. Daniel F.

    Wasn’t something like this covered or involved in the “Social Grievance Studies” affair by Helen Pluckrose, Peter Boghossian, and James A. Lindsay?

    This research also seems to take human decency/class issues and blame them all on race.

  12. Polar Donkey

    I’m getting to the point of can’t standing white people with their pets in public. Emotional support dogs in strollers demanding they be allowed in restaurants. Your emotional support dog is not a service dog and you are insulting people that have real service dogs. On the other hand, if you live in a poor black neighborhood here in Memphis, you live under constant fear of pit bulls running loose mauling people. Cops get hundreds of calls a year for dogs on the loose, 75%+ for pits, and almost all in minority neighborhoods. Plenty of people have been killed or injured from dog attacks here..
    Several years ago, a famous basketball player was murdered and a pit bull from a rich white neighborhood got stolen at the same time. The reward for the killer was $10,000. The reward for the dog was $14,000. Same city, different world. About a year later, the dog was found walking down the street in some small town in Mississippi. 8 years later, the murderer was arrested.

    1. petal

      It’s the foreign people that have been bringing their dogs into my local supermarket and rolling them around the store in the shopping carts. It’s unhygienic(among other things!) and I usually speak up because the staff is too afraid to. Once, one person started yelling at me and insulting me in broken English that it was her emotional support animal. It obviously wasn’t any kind of support animal. The whites leave their dogs outside while in the store.

      1. Joe Well

        You and Professor Mayorga-Gallo should do a joint lecture where you explain how foreign people bring dogs in stores and she describes how all Latinos chain their dogs up and all white people narc on them to the cops.

        Our universities are coarsening our discourse almost to the level of Archie Bunker. Working class people living and working together amd seeing their common interests is their greatest fear.

      2. Wukchumni

        It’s not uncommon in Europe for your dog to be with you everywhere, in the restaurant, store, etc.

    2. Rihana

      Agree totally and I’m white. When did dogs become like human babies? And why are dogs allowed in food stores and restaurants? Isn’t that why we have health codes? Though the way more well off people are with their babies has gotten pretty sickening, too. The size of strollers these days has gotten out of control and they don’t fit in lots of restaurants, but people bring them in any way. I know, it’s their “right”.
      And I don’t understand the whole” emotional support” thing. When did that become a “thing?” Oh well, my kids are probably right, I’m just mean. But my husband of over 40 years is Filipino, and I can tell you he gets called on all kinds of stuff that a white person easily gets away with. And he’s a college educated professional. Yes, it quite often IS race, and not class.

  13. timbers

    This is non scientific, but IMO lower income areas often get Pits or Rottweilers for protection, while middle class opts for less territorial dogs like Labradors, Poodles, mixes.

    When living in a mixed area, my large yellow Labrador Retriever Pumpkin would love to run and chase moving/running kids to play with. Often the minority parents we be alarmed thinking he was attacking them.

    One time my partner was coming home from work just down the sidewalk, and Pumpkin saw him and started moving towards to greet him. Then the neighbor kid opened his front door, Pumpkin heard it, turned around and dashed onto his porch and went inside his house along with him. My partner was crestfallen. Pumpkins was entralled with kids as if he knew he was one of them.

    Now I’m frequenting a state park in Hingham a high income suburb of Boston area, and Pits are rare. Companion and family dogs like Labs dominate.

    My current Lab – Rocky – literally charges every person in sight at warp speed, wags his tail, and nudges them with his snoot to say “HI!.” Labs are very high spirited and a handful when young. It took me a long time to get him to stop jumping up on people, then he “obeyed” that rule not to jump up by shoulder slamming into people he greeted, and I got him off that, too.

  14. Wyoming

    I am not surprised at the above responses, but some reflection might be in order. This article is just a tiny little window on one place with a small sample (as Lambert likes to point out – in this case n=62 over the period of 2009-2011). It is fair to say this article is nothing but a snapshot and an old one at that.

    As a long term dog owner and someone who has lived in various mixes of diverse neighborhoods and a number of different countries, not to mention traveling to over 80 countries, it bears pointing out the deep bias of the author. Not speaking in terms of racial bias but in terms of ‘dog’ bias. Different parts of the country, different cultures, different racial groups, etc have very different norms regarding dogs. To some not bringing their dog inside is tanamount to neglect, and some of those feel the same if the dog is not in bed with you at night. While on the other hand some think that bringing a dog inside is a filthy practice and don’t even bring up the bed thing in polite company. Letting a dog lick your face is a happy event for many and others point out that a dog licks its butt many times a day and would you let your significant other lick you there and then kiss you!!?? To many dogs are trusted working animals and not a full member of the family. You take care of them and they will give their lives for you. But that being said only a fool ever trusts one (think pit bulls here – though they are hardly the only dangerous dog). In our current neighborhood walking them is a great way to meet other dog lovers. It is also a way to find out who really dislikes them.

    The issue is far too complex to be able to learn anything useful from the above article.

  15. skk

    O dear. This looks like in the vein of “anecdotes is the plural of data”. Since the link to the base work was to a book, with some more effort I found the original paper

    Its just anecdotes ! The author doesn’t record sentiment analysis, correlations, NOTHING. Then there’s the sample size – she interviewed 0, zero latinX people, 3 blacks, 27 Whites for a total of 30. She doesn’t break it out by gender or age-bins.
    Her interviewee selection was by “snowball sampling”. This is a non-probabilistic technique, its usually impossible to determine the sampling error and you cannot make generalizations of the general population from this sample and samples gathered using this technique.

    So you cannot make any general statements of the people in that neighborhood and certainly not stuff like “… dogs reinforced boundaries.”

    There’s something rather endearing about this footnote –

    Due to the nature of my data (mostly interviews), I am limited to human accounts of events. These retellings rarely focus on the specific actions of their animal companions and how their dogs shaped their own actions. My data, therefore, fail to illuminate the social relations of human and dog actants. I hope future studies will address this data limitation via participant observation.

    I hope this was tongue-in-cheek – you don’t really expect future studies to find out what the dogs think do you ?

    The anecdotes are fine – its all grist to the mill if you’ve been around for a while and socialized across cultures and age-groups and gender for a bit.

    I wondered who the heck published this – the Sociological Forum. Its got a impact factor of 1.6 ( Nature is 41 ) and in ranking its 46/146. So, its not a vanity pay-to-publish junk journal for sure.

    1. flora

      Ah. A book by an academic, an assistant professor who is no doubt hoping for promotion to full professor. Publish or perish.

      This quote from Mark Fisher’s “Exiting the Vampire Castle” [Academia] comes to mind:

      The Vampires’ Castle feeds on the energy and anxieties and vulnerabilities of young students, but most of all it lives by converting the suffering of particular groups – the more ‘marginal’ the better – into academic capital. The most lauded figures in the Vampires’ Castle are those who have spotted a new market in suffering – those who can find a group more oppressed and subjugated than any previously exploited will find themselves promoted through the ranks very quickly.

      The first law of the Vampires’ Castle is: individualise and privatise everything.
      While in theory it claims to be in favour of structural critique, in practice it never focuses on anything except individual behaviour. Some of these working class types are not terribly well brought up, and can be very rude at times. Remember: condemning individuals is always more important than paying attention to impersonal structures.

      This post nicely conforms to the process Fisher describes, imo.

      1. nycTerrierist

        Noticed your reference to Fisher’s essay the other day,
        an important piece — highly recommended to all.

      2. Joe Well

        Thank your for sharing this.

        I have noticed this phenomenon but had not seen it discussed so explicitly. What a great metaphor.

  16. Mark

    My neighborhood is quite mixed, and you can quite successfully guess the inhabitants of a house by the kind of dog they have. White heterosexual upper middle couples have labradoodles, blacks have pit bulls, gays have small yippie dogs. Yes, it is a stereotype but reality based. I was walking my husky when I encountered a neighbor who is a black guy who looks like a former football tackle. He was walking a dachshund. I said hello and said that his dachs was well behaved. He looked at me with a pained expression, “It’s my wife’s dog.” He didn’t want me to think that a guy like him owned a small yelping woofer.

  17. Cal2

    Laughable and pathetic. I like the dogs though. Have made lots of friends over our common interests. But, cars, houses and newly arrived produce in our market are also a basis for that.

    Wow, 63 residents. What is the standard deviation?

    “according to a recent national survey, most Americans value the country’s racial diversity…”
    Really? Per the Pew “study”, what? No footnotes?
    “When it comes to diversity in the communities where they live, most U.S. adults (66%) – including a majority of those who live in neighborhoods with little diversity – are satisfied with the racial mix in their area.”

    The microcosm of the naval she is gazing at rapidly jumps across the country to encompass all of the U.S. toward the end.

    “Sarah Mayorga-Gallo, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Massachusetts Boston…”

    Sounds like a grant seeking, insecure, pseudo-academic floundering in a puddle of her own making, desperate to stay relevant in a world that has become aware that her kind are one reason why we have Donald Trump in the White House.
    A pox on her house and a stroke and pat on her pooch’s head, if she even has one.

    1. Monty

      Could it be a right-wing psyop, designed to sow discord and mistrust of animal hating ‘others’?

    2. Judith

      I am reminded of the young woman from NYT (linked to earlier this week) who interviewed Bernie Sanders about a rally he attended many years ago in Nicaragua and was upset because he challenged her lack of historical understanding of US interventions in Central America.

      Both she and Sarah Mayorga-Gallo both seemed to be sure of the answer before they even asked the question.

  18. jfleni

    RE: How Dogs Help Keep Multiracial Neighborhoods Socially Segregated.

    Sorry but only a minority of people are hung up on the doggie,
    kitty thing,so the post is nonsense.

  19. Martin Finnucane

    Drop this on Twitter, and be prepared to catch hell. You’ll also get alot of “why you dunking on dogs”, when of course it’s not the dogs that one is dunking on.

  20. Louis Fyne

    IMO, OP is conflating race with class. Trigger warning: treatment of dogs, ownership of dog breeds correlates, use of dogs as companions versus work animals (eg, sentry) by class.

    yes, i’m 100% stereotyping but I’m human, and there are always exceptions to the rule.

    1. Cal2


      It is class, absolutely.
      Bullneck tattooed whites as well as black gangstas, seem to equally love pit bulls.

      Music is an analogy.
      When is the last time you heard of a gang shooting at an André Rieu concert?

      1. Wyoming

        hmm… perhaps those who live in situations (whether by choice or happenstance) which can reasonably be perceived to be risky or dangerous opt for a dog which is capable of defending them vice dogs which are just for show. So it is not class but security. I know of many well off folks who own large potentially dangerous dogs for the very reason that they are an extra layer of security (I plead guilty).

        There are a lot of big dogs which can rip a pit bull to shreds if necessary and are far less likely to commit the stereotypical pit bull transgressions. But they are also a lot more expensive to buy and feed than a pit bull. Maybe your class divide is at this juncture vice the one you allude too.

    1. Polar Donkey

      It still may. I got invited to dog fights in Mississippi. It was by a guy I work with. He just assumed I would want to go. Doesn’t everyone want go to the dog fights? He was proud to be having his dog in one of the matches.

  21. nycTerrierist

    one personal anecdote fwiw: among the many ways my dog (r.i.p.) enriched my life,
    he was an astonishingly effective social connector for me in my former ‘hood –
    across racial, class lines. I lived in the brutally hypergentrifying lower east side of nyc,
    where tenements are getting supplanted by luxury, so my neighbors covered the gamut.

    I got him as a rescue from a heartbroken latino gentleman whose landlord no longer permitted pets
    and this scrappy little terrier mix brought me smiles and chats with
    homeboys, hipsters, olds, youngs, kids of all ethnicities, etc. etc.
    If anything, that dog was a daily revelation how all kinds of people can bond
    over the little things in life – when they’re good!

    Yes, I have a successor dog, couldn’t live without one.

  22. Anon

    When I’m trying to read NC comments I can’t stand my neighbors barking dog. Need more cats. Or maybe fewer pets and more wildlife (song birds, raptors, foxes, mountain lions).

    1. Arizona Slim

      Same here. There are times when my neighborhood sounds like a [family blogging] kennel.

      And I’m with you on the fewer pets and more wildlife idea.

      Around here, I’m doing my part. I’ve had two nesting mourning dove families — call them my houseguests — this spring. The second set of kids is toddling around my fenced in back yard. They feel safe precisely because I don’t have pets.

      They’re about to take flight, and I will miss them. But those little doves gotta do what birds gotta do.

  23. JerryDenim

    Odd headline and a strange claim to pin on dogs. The anecdote about affluent white people at a cafe being racist to a minority status veteran has absolutely nothing to do with their status as dog owners, but it does have everything to do with them being racist jerks. Same story with white dog walkers self-segregating. Has nothing to do with the dogs but everything to do with the attitudes of the owners and the same behavior would manifest itself with or without the dogs in the picture. Furthermore chaining dogs in your backyard isn’t a subjective matter nor is it a legitmate preference, it’s cruel and in many places it’s illegal or very restricted. Claiming that cruelty to animals is a racial characteristic or cultural value of blacks or Latinos instead of a marker of socioeconomic status and education is one of the most racist things I’ve heard in a while. I know plenty of black and Latino dog owners who keep their dogs inside their homes and spoil them rotten. Not all of them are affluent. Dogs can bring people together or they can be divisive. Well-to-do white people call the cops on their white neighbor’s barky and annoying dogs all the time. I’ve owned dogs in three states and many different types of neighborhoods. People care deeply for dogs and dog behavior and treatment can be a flashpoint among neighbors anywhere. Some people are diplomatic and thoughtful about their interactions and interventions with neighbors while others are thoughtless and mean-spirited, self-righteous jerks. It’s not the fault of dogs.

    My Boxer that passed this year always seemed to spark lots of conversation among people of all ages, sexes, races and classes. Minority males that some people may have found threatening included. He was a friendly and amazing animal (also very handsome) so of course that helped, but mostly he reflected my biases and insecurities, so if I was a different kind of person I doubt the interactions would have been the same. One of the things I miss most about him was how he connected me to the neighborhood through our twice daily walks which included lots of observations and interactions. Anyway, it’s the people not the dogs who are the problem.

  24. chuck roast

    After reading the article and beginning on the comments, I thought, “this neighborhood is just like an ecotone.” The author is trying to stuff 50 pounds of differences and contradictions into a five-pound bag. It’s racialist, classist, animalist and culturalist. The neighborhood has all the richness you would find in the flora and fauna where the sea meets the shore or the swamp meet dry land. If you are looking for life’s wonders, these are the places you want to be. And if this woman ever really figures it out, she can publish 10 volumes and be mentioned in the same breath as Darwin.

  25. nihil obstet

    Dog ownership has significant health benefits, according to, among others, a German study with over 10,000 respondents and a Swedish study with 34,000 respondents. That resulted in Germany in the government encouraging dog ownership, since it saved health costs (confirmed fewer doctor visits, fewer medical episodes).

    There are jerks, including those who claim their untrained dogs are service animals because they want them along, those who treat the animals like commodities in failing to meet the animals’ needs, and those who dictate that everybody else ought to do the same. If my city were as strict on car use as it is on dog control, we would have a much, much better transportation record. Having said that, I return to the benefits of dog ownership.

    In the U.S., there’s a lot of urban hostility towards dogs, which we ought to address with better services and education. It would cost far less than continuing without a genuine universal health system. This post’s assumptions and anecdotes go in the wrong direction.

  26. Joe Well

    I am from somewhere between working and middle class, and the mores of the professional set never cease to confound me.

    Does anyone understand what is the deal with bringing dogs into restaurants, bars, shops, etc.? Why is that a signifier of professional cultural capital rather than just being incredibly insensitive to people who are allergic to dogs? Or is this a massive in-joke that most people are not supposed to understand by design?

    My best guess is that is that this is a way of flaunting social privilege. How many people could get away with being the first person to bring a dog indoors?

    1. Lynne

      In some cases, it’s because if you don’t, someone will break all your windows / cut the leash to let your dog run out into traffic. Some animal rights people believe wholeheartedly in the maxim that we had to kill your ur dog to save the dog. And the “professional classes” either travel, believe they don’t have time to take the dog home and leave it, or [pick your poison]

  27. Rod

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Serenity Prayer is the common name for a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr[1][2] (1892–1971). The best-known form is:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    After multiple reads of the article, comments and links (particularly the last in the article published in the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy by Robin DiAngelo titled ‘White Fragility’) the Serenity Prayer above brings me much comfort.
    As does my late best friends bitch snoring at my feet does.

    I thought the article was going to be about dissing dogs for social discord(Pits-v-Pomeranians-v-Pointers preferences, or something like that). But of course it was bigger than that(’nuff said)

    That ‘dogs’ are social segregator tools, well, that just doesn’t even approach my sphere of experience-ever.

    10 years shy of having canine companionship in the family for a century–backed in pictures and stories.
    Big and small: pure to Heinz: show to show-up.

    Over the years I’ve begun worrying about where humans are taking humanity–I never worry where dogs want humanity to go.

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