Interracial contact and desegregation : An analysis of tri-ethnic race relations in the Houston Independent School District

Date

1975

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Abstract

In 1975, the Houston Council on Human Relations (HCHR) published the results of a study concerned with racial interaction in the Houston Independent School District. This thesis is a further analysis of the data collected for that study. This thesis examines the effect of crossethnic contact on ethnic attitudes. Specifically, it focuses upon what effect a difference in degree of inter-ethnic contact has upon ethnic attitudes, under certain specified conditions. After an extensive review of the literature dealing with the racial contact hypothesis, four major conditions which could counter any positive effects of inter-ethnic contact are identified. These conditions are (1) size of ethnic-minority population in the schools; (2) the experiencing of frustration; (3) the feeling of being threatened; and (h) the condition of relative deprivation. Each condition is examined carefully. A series of questions are then posed as to the possible effects of each condition. Several hypotheses are derived out of these questions, and subsequently tested. Before the hypotheses are rested, a brief demographic description of the schools included in the sample is presented. Following this description, a factor analytically derived measure of the valence of ethnic attitudes is discussed. Also, the techniques developed to measure each of the above conditions is explained. The tests of the hypotheses, and the subsequent discussion give rise to the following general findings: (1) Blacks, Mexican-Americans and whites are differentially affected by the degree of inter-ethnic contact possible in their schools. Blacks tend to become more positive toward both Mexican-Americans and whites. Mexican-Americans become more positive toward blacks. Whites do not seem to be affected in a systematic manner and thus do not become either more or less positive toward Mexican-Americans or blacks. (2) Individuals who find themselves attending a school they do not wish to because it is dominated by ethnic groups other than their own, and individuals who feel threatened by other ethnic groups tend to become more negative in their images toward a third non-threatening ethnic group as the size of the threatening group increases. Thus, scapegoating seems to be one type of response for specific types of people to an increase in the opportunities for inter-ethnic contact. However, this phenomenon is net a uniform reaction for the entire sample nor even for many individuals experiencing frustration or threat. Thus, scapegoating is not an automatic response to the above conditions. (3) Relative deprivation does not play an extensive role in inter-ethnic contact among the students included in the sample, (4) Autostereotypes of blacks and whites are affected by the size of their own ethnic group in their school (a curvilinear relationship was found). (5) Self-images of black and Mexican-American students tend to be more positive as their own numbers increase across the schools. White self-images, on the other hand, tend to become more negative. (6) Autostereotypes and selfimages tend not to be affected, on the whole, by an increase in opportunities for inter-ethnic contact for individuals who are experiencing threat, frustration or relative deprivation. There are some exceptions to this finding. The final conclusion of the thesis is that the findings suggest that if one desires to maximize the optimum effect of the benefits of inter-ethnic contact among junior and senior high school students, while at the same time limiting the negative effects, one should desegregate the schools so that no one ethnic group comprises more than two-thirds of the student body, nor less than one-third.

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Keywords

School integration, Houston Independent School District (HISD)

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