First Advisor

Nona Y. Glazer

Term of Graduation

Fall 1993

Date of Publication


Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Sociology






Friendship, Women -- Psychology, African American women -- Psychology



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, vi, 96 p.)


This research is an exploratory step toward identifying how social inequality affects interracial friendship among women and opportunities to develop such relationships. By considering the nonlocal determinants of individual experiences and the ways in which structural variables may influence and operate in friendships, this research attempts to illuminate how micro-level action is actually rooted in "macrolevel" social processes. In keeping with feminist standpoint epistemology, this research begins with the subjective experiences of 15 pairs of African-American/white friends. The women's descriptions of their same-race and cross-race friendships provided a starting point from which to identify the ways in which racial/ ethnic and class inequality shape and operate in these relationships. Social inequality creates economic, ideological, and experiential divisions among African-American and white women. Opportunities for friendship were affected by the proximity of African-American and white women, and long-lived interracial friendships developed among women of similar classes in settings that fostered interracial contact and discussion of racial issues. Group position may also have contributed to the interviewee's desire to make friendships across race. Crossrace friendships were non-threatening and unique to the white interviewees, while African-American interviewees stressed the primacy of same-race ties. The voices of the women participants provided many examples of the ways in which interracial friendships reflected the dynamics of institutional racism and caused difficulties in their friendships across race. Racial/ ethnic inequality was exemplified by a lack of common base from which the women could understand each other, problems resulting from white racism and privilege, African-American interviewees' ambivalence over interracial dating, and different beliefs about the importance of racial/ ethnic identity. The divergent standpoints of African-American and white women created barriers to disclosure in friendships across race. African-American interviewee's experiences of everyday racism caused them to believe that their white friends could not understand their experiences and limited the kinds of information that African American interviewees felt that they could share with white friends. The standpoint of some white women enabled them to ignore racism and downplay the importance of racial identity. The need for African-American women to educate whites about racism and aspects of African-American culture sometimes obstructed interracial friendships. While African-American and white women may form affectionate ties, friendship is not exempt from, nor does it eliminate inequality.


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Persistent Identifier