Race Tests: Racial Boundary Maintenance in White Evangelical Churches Conference Paper uri icon


  • 2017 Alpha Kappa Delta: The International Sociology Honor Society How and why do nominally open organizations remain racially segregated in the post-civil rights era? What role do interpersonal interactions play in the perpetuation of segregation? Using ethnographic data gathered from seven, majority white, evangelical churches across four states, we find that social actors (i.e., clergy and congregants) play a central role in continuing racial segregation by executing race tests on people of color who attempt to gain entry to these spaces. Race tests are performances by white individuals and groups, in the presence of incoming people of color. They utilize racial microaggressions, playing on persistent racist stereotypes and/or histories of racial violence, to preclude or precondition people of color's participation in predominantly white social spaces. White actors in white social spaces initiate utility-based race tests to determine whether people of color are willing to serve the interests of whites in the space, or execute exclusionary race tests to coerce people of color into leaving the space. We provide examples of both types of race tests and discuss the role of such microaggressions and the racialized emotions at play in the reproduction of segregation in historically white social spaces like white evangelical churches.

published proceedings

  • Sociological Inquiry

altmetric score

  • 129.2

author list (cited authors)

  • Bracey, G. E., & Moore, W. L.

citation count

  • 43

complete list of authors

  • Bracey, Glenn E||Moore, Wendy Leo

publication date

  • May 2017