Abstract Scholars have argued convincingly that race influences an individual’s ability to access and mobilize social capital. Since social capital is embedded in social relationships and not individuals, understanding the context of relationships is imperative for understanding how race may create barriers to socioeconomic equality. Using data from in-depth interviews with members of an intentionally interracial organization in a large Midwestern city, I investigate the influence of race on social capital. One major theme emerged: highly involved white members described their close friends of color in utilitarian terms and not integrated into daily activities outside of the interracial organization. This theme, named the “one friend rule,” is a micro-level mechanism where whites mobilize a “close” interracial tie to project a generalized value for diversity while simultaneously limiting access to personal resources. I conclude that the one friend rule is a major barrier to social capital mobilization for people of color involved in a racially diverse organization. social networks, social capital, weak ties, race, diverse organizations The civil rights movement of the 1960s fought for racial integration in public spaces as the starting point for socioeconomic equality. Although this has resulted in an increase in the minority share in education, jobs, and home ownership, the social networks of white and black Americans remain largely homogenous. Indeed, most Americans today claim to value diversity, yet racial inequality is still evident in most areas of social life (Bell and Hartmann 2007; Reskin 2012). In this article, I explore the impact of racially diverse social networks on racial inequality even 50 years after court-mandated integration and non-discrimination. Racial inequality, in part, results from differential access to social capital, “the resources embedded in a social structure accessed or mobilized in purposive actions” (Lin 1999:35). Individuals who possess social networks rich in social capital have greater power to control resources, achieve academic credentials, access information about jobs, and mobilize resource-rich institutional networks (Burt 1992; Coleman 1988; McDonald, Lin, and Ao 2009; Small 2009). Durable and reciprocal networks such as these facilitate resource exchange and social interactions (Bourdieu  1986; Gouldner 1960; Molm 2010). Thus, it is imperative to understand the mechanisms that influence a person’s ability to (1) access and (2) mobilize social resources embedded in a social network. Network scholars argue that structural factors, by and large, explain variation in social capital. Such factors include an actor’s redundancy in social networks (Burt 1992), uneven diffusion of cultural materials across stratified groups (Gondal 2015), and the cumulative effects on network structure across the lifespan (DiMaggio and Garip 2012). Structural arguments use counts of network connections to imply that increased access to diverse networks will resolve inequality (McDonald et al. 2009; Moody 2001; Yancey 2007). However, quantifying the presence of ties reveals little about how individuals mobilize social capital. Understanding the content and strength of ties can clarify the impact of network diversity on racial inequality. Research reveals that members of racially diverse organizations express more racially progressive views and claim to have more racially diverse networks (Fischer 2008; Moody 2001; Yancey 2007). However, little is known about how progressive views and diverse networks translate into durable, reciprocal interracial relationships. Therefore, this study investigates the relational quality and meaning of interracial social ties to determine the mechanisms that affect tie mobilization. I introduce the “one friend rule” to explain how whites understand and describe their close friends of color. I define the one friend rule as a social mechanism in which whites name a non-intimate, institutionally tied interracial friendship as “close” to project a generalized value for diversity. When whites follow the one friend rule, the racial integration of personal networks will not reduce racial inequality. I argue that whites do not describe their relationships with people of color as meaningful and reciprocal. Instead, they mobilize the race of their black or biracial friends for its symbolic value primarily within an interracial organization. Consequently, when people value the symbolic meaning of tie over its relational quality, a “close” interracial friend reduces from a reciprocal relationship to a unidirectional, utilitarian tie. While scholars argue that increased diversity in friendship networks implies progress towards a more egalitarian society, this research contends that access to non-reciprocal ties constrains a person of color’s power to mobilize resources embedded in white networks. Theoretical Development The one friend rule is a social problem that intersects with three scholarly conversations. First, the concept challenges the assumption that racial integration inherently reduces socioeconomic inequality. In fact, integration may reinforce inequality when whites mobilize the symbolic value of weak interracial relationships without reciprocation. Second, the one friend rule adds depth to the conversation about tie meaning and social capital. My analyses clarify how race affects the content of relationships. When ties appear to be symmetric, social network analysts must be careful to not assume that the meaning of “close” is always consistent (Marsden and Campbell 1984). Finally, I draw conclusions about the conditions under which racially diverse organizations influence systems of social stratification. Scholars argue that if leaders promote diversity and provide opportunities for interracial contact then racial barriers will reduce (Emerson and Smith 2000; Marti 2009; Yancey 2007). The one friend rule, however, provides nuance as to how whites respond to these initiatives and can stall progress towards racial equality. Racial Integration and Social Network Inequality Research shows that growing diversity is generally correlated with positive outcomes. Scholars say that America’s racial diversity is growing rapidly and, in principle, most individuals value racial diversity (Bell and Hartmann 2007; Frey 2015). Moreover, organizational studies show that members of multiracial organizations report having more interracial friendships than those in homogenous networks. For example, studies of student networks show that school diversity promotes to some extent the formation of interracial ties among adolescents and college freshman (Fischer 2008; Moody 2001). Also, scholars argue that interracial contact in egalitarian social contexts (i.e., multiracial churches) fosters antiracist attitudes (Emerson and Woo 2006; Yancey 2007). Such evidence reveals the potential for diverse organizations to improve race relations in America. Research, however, reveals a paradox at the heart of American life. Although Americans value diversity, homophilous networks remain the norm for most Americans (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, and Cook 2001; Wimmer and Lewis 2010). Network scholars argue that ethnic boundaries and cultural preferences form and reinforce the structure of social networks. Groups maintain the strength and durability of social groups by attributing important cultural meaning to the ties formed within the group (Lizardo 2006; Pachucki and Breiger 2010; Wimmer and Lewis 2010). In contrast, Korie L. Edwards (2008) argues that theories of homophily understate how race influences the preferences that shape how networks form. Despite the claims that white Americans want a more inclusive and tolerant society, evidence suggests that racial diversity can, in fact, produce hostility and mistrust (Smith 2010). People of color who attempt to form social ties with whites are often stereotyped, objectified, and discriminated against (Bonilla-Silva 2010; Gowan 2011; Smith 2005). Social psychologists argue that modern economic systems have developed third party mediators to facilitate economic exchange in places where trust is low (Cook, Levi, and Hardin 2005). Diversity initiatives attempt to mediate low trust in interracial organizations by increasing the frequency of interracial contact, but cannot control how individuals will perceive and value those relationships. When close friendships (i.e., strong ties) develop as a result of interracial contact, the social barriers that prevent the exchange of social and material resources across race should theoretically dissolve (Cook et al. 2005). The one friend rule, I suggest below, clarifies how the meaning of close friendship differs across race for individuals—even within a racially diverse organization. Social Capital Mobilization Much of the social capital literature argues that additional pathways to social networks increase the odds of obtaining good jobs (Fernandez and Fernandez-Mateo 2006; Granovetter 1974; McDonald et al. 2009). For example, weak ties theory contends that socioeconomic opportunity is more closely linked to the quantity rather than the quality of ties (Granovetter 1973). Mark Granovetter (1973) argued that weak ties could provide access to information about job opportunities that strong ties could not. In addition, workplace research has found that job seekers who were connected to large, diverse (non-redundant) networks have more control over employment outcomes (Burt 1992, 2005). An empirical test of social capital mobilization theory found that African Americans and Latinos were connected to a diverse network of weak ties within their job searches, but had fewer job referrals than whites seeking similar positions (Fernandez and Fernandez-Mateo 2006). In other words, people of color had access to the “right” networks but were rarely able to mobilize them to secure their desired jobs. To understand racial inequality in social capital, we must understand what influences tie mobilization. People of color often lack the power to sustain and mobilize ties to resource-rich networks (Gowan 2011; Small 2009; Smith 2005). Therefore, the one friend rule focuses on relationships considered “close” because mutual obligation improves an individual’s ability to mobilize these connections as social capital (Molm 2010). In addition, close or strong ties provide durable support because they are imbued with mutual obligation. As the magnitude of a need increases, the strength of the relationship required for the exchange increases (Burt 1992; Pfeffer and Parra 2009). The one friend rule shows symbolic social relationships lack the strength to be durable and reciprocal. It challenges the assumption that people of color who develop ties in an interracial organization possess a greater ability to mobilize resources embedded in white networks. Granovetter (1973) defined tie strength as a combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, intimacy, and reciprocity that characterize a relationship. An empirical test of his assumptions concluded that closeness (emotional intensity) best predicts tie strength (Marsden and Campbell 1984). The one friend rule contends that a tie described as “close” may only be symbolic in value and may only be considered important in diverse social groups. Joel M. Podolny (2001) would argue this is because whites evaluate the strength of interracial ties through a racialized lens—that social meanings about race are attached to tie. He contends that when complete information is not available, a social tie should be seen as a lens that helps individuals decide whether to invest resources rather than a pipe through which resources automatically flow. The input and output are distorted by the lens itself (Podolny 2001). Whites, who claim one or few minority friends, attribute status to ties with non-dominant actors that is largely symbolic. In doing this, they break norms around reciprocity and status by nominating weak ties that are typically considered low status in broader society as close (Gould 2002; Gouldner 1960). Whites following the one friend rule express their commitment to diversity by parading weak (or nonexistent) ties with minority acquaintances or members of community organizations as strong. Inequality and Racially Diverse Organizations Organizations that facilitate the growth of racially and socioeconomically diverse network ties are rare. However, interracial religious organizations are a distinct exception. Researchers have come to startlingly different conclusions about the impact of these organizations on racism. One line of research contends that these racially diverse congregations reduce racist attitudes (Emerson and Yancey 2011), promote positive interracial contact (Yancey 2007), and create ethnic solidarity through religious practices (Marti 2009). Another line of research provides evidence that members of interracial congregations reinforce white hegemony (Edwards 2008), are less likely to affirm structural explanations for racism (Cobb, Perry, and Dougherty 2015), and misuse power to achieve cultural preference for whites (Christerson, Edwards, and Emerson 2005; Edwards 2008). These two lines disagree about the metric used for racial progress. The scholars accept that changes in the minority representation in leadership and values for diversity represent some progress. However, Edwards (2008) argues that, if people of color lack the power to influence how the organization operates, then racially diverse churches will unlikely dismantle systems of social stratification. Theories abound about how racially diverse organizations facilitate racial egalitarianism. This research takes a cue from work that found that when organizational values for diversity are defined too broadly, integration will not reduce racial inequality (Berrey 2015). Within racially diverse organizations, white members can promote a value for diversity but, simultaneously, limit the mobilization of their social networks. I contend that the one friend rule is a mechanism that sustains racial inequalities, particularly those linked to social capital. DATA AND METHODS The research site is Faith Church, a large evangelical Protestant congregation located in a middle-class suburb of a major Midwestern city. Faith Church is a theoretically valuable case because it promotes interracial contact and employs strategies, described below, that facilitate racial diversity (Christerson et al. 2005; Marti 2009; Yancey 2007). Beginning in 2000, the church leadership, spearheaded by the head pastor, decided to increase the church’s racial and socioeconomic diversity. The leadership hired a black music director, Sean, in 2004 to be the first non-white member of the staff. Sean was a musician for a Grammy award-winning artist and produced music for many well-known black gospel artists. In addition, Faith Church leaders hung photos of families of color on walls in the church building and developed a charity outreach program in a primarily non-white neighborhood. These ongoing efforts paid off handsomely with a dramatic increase in racial diversity from less than 1 percent non-white to roughly 40 percent, most of whom are black. According to estimates gathered from church leaders, approximately 60 percent of the congregation is white/non-Hispanic. Participants interviewed for this study attributed the increase in racial and ethnic diversity to the pastor’s vision for diversity. They described this transition favorably saying that the church was becoming “more like heaven” and a “comfortable place for all people.” Across the interviews, attendees lauded the pastor’s intentional move towards a more inclusive environment. These comments demonstrate that study participants of Faith Church supported the church’s racial diversity initiative. Subject Recruitment Utilizing stratified snowball sampling techniques, I recruited 37 individuals to participate in this study—22 whites and 15 people of color—from various socioeconomic strata and levels of involvement in the church. The participants in the sample are representative of the church at large (see Table 1). Approximately 60 percent of the sample was white, with people of color making up the remaining 40 percent. I define class based upon household characteristics with categories established by Annette Lareau (2002)—middle class, working class, and poor. Finally, participants who were highly involved in the congregation represent approximately two-thirds of the sample. Table 1. Descriptive Statistics of Interview Participants White (n = 22) Black or Biracial (n = 15) Percentage of Sample Sex Female 13 6 51.4 Male 9 9 48.6 Education High school 8 3 29.7 Some college 7 7 37.8 Bachelors or above 7 5 32.4 Social class Poor 8 6 29.7 Working class 7 4 37.8 Middle class 7 5 32.4 Involvement level Attendinga 9 5 37.8 Involvedb 13 10 62.2 Marital status Married or partnered 15 9 64.9 Divorced, widowed, single 7 6 35.1 Employment status Employed 11 12 64.9 Disability or unemployed 8 3 27.0 Retired 3 0 8.1 White (n = 22) Black or Biracial (n = 15) Percentage of Sample Sex Female 13 6 51.4 Male 9 9 48.6 Education High school 8 3 29.7 Some college 7 7 37.8 Bachelors or above 7 5 32.4 Social class Poor 8 6 29.7 Working class 7 4 37.8 Middle class 7 5 32.4 Involvement level Attendinga 9 5 37.8 Involvedb 13 10 62.2 Marital status Married or partnered 15 9 64.9 Divorced, widowed, single 7 6 35.1 Employment status Employed 11 12 64.9 Disability or unemployed 8 3 27.0 Retired 3 0 8.1 a Attending: member attends church services only. b Involved: member attends church services and six months in other church related activity. Table 1. Descriptive Statistics of Interview Participants White (n = 22) Black or Biracial (n = 15) Percentage of Sample Sex Female 13 6 51.4 Male 9 9 48.6 Education High school 8 3 29.7 Some college 7 7 37.8 Bachelors or above 7 5 32.4 Social class Poor 8 6 29.7 Working class 7 4 37.8 Middle class 7 5 32.4 Involvement level Attendinga 9 5 37.8 Involvedb 13 10 62.2 Marital status Married or partnered 15 9 64.9 Divorced, widowed, single 7 6 35.1 Employment status Employed 11 12 64.9 Disability or unemployed 8 3 27.0 Retired 3 0 8.1 White (n = 22) Black or Biracial (n = 15) Percentage of Sample Sex Female 13 6 51.4 Male 9 9 48.6 Education High school 8 3 29.7 Some college 7 7 37.8 Bachelors or above 7 5 32.4 Social class Poor 8 6 29.7 Working class 7 4 37.8 Middle class 7 5 32.4 Involvement level Attendinga 9 5 37.8 Involvedb 13 10 62.2 Marital status Married or partnered 15 9 64.9 Divorced, widowed, single 7 6 35.1 Employment status Employed 11 12 64.9 Disability or unemployed 8 3 27.0 Retired 3 0 8.1 a Attending: member attends church services only. b Involved: member attends church services and six months in other church related activity. Data Collection Data were gathered using semistructured, in-depth interviews that lasted one to two hours. In-depth interviews were conducted in the participant’s choice of private location. Participants were provided with an informed consent to sign and told that the interview’s purpose was to understand more about their personal networks. Each interview was audio recorded and transcribed producing 1,147 pages of raw data. Finally, participants’ confidentiality was protected by identifying their data with pseudonyms. The interview guide included questions about members’ involvement at Faith Church (i.e., length of time attending, involvement in regular activities) and proceeded with exchange approach name generation techniques. Exchange approach name generators elicit names and information about the social ties with whom subjects interact frequently, provide support, and consider close (Marin and Hampton 2007). I adapted the exchange approach survey method into a semistructured interview design to gain additional insight into the tie formation process. Participants listed up to 15 close family and friends inside and outside of the congregation. Finally, for each person mentioned, social demographics were collected at the end to avoid interviewer fatigue (Bernard 2006). In this article, I explore the participants’ descriptions and social exchanges with their five closest friends. Data Analysis I developed a baseline codebook from the interview guide to construct major themes about how ties were described and mobilized. The data were coded for qualitative themes and descriptive analysis using Dedoose1 data analysis software (Bernard 2006). The social network data did not represent a complete network structure of the organization. However, it provided a useful backdrop to clarify patterns in the qualitative data. FINDINGS: THE ONE FRIEND RULE Prima facie, the presence of close interracial friendships implies reduced racial barriers and, thus, the potential for racial equality. However, the key finding was that highly involved white members at Faith Church described their “close” connections to friends of color as symbolically valuable but relationally weak. The relationships were described in utilitarian terms and not integrated into members’ networks outside of the church. This pattern reveals what it means for whites to be close friends with people of color in an interracial organization. Friendship Patterns in an Interracial Organization Data drawn from the participants’ network of close friends reveal three common characteristics among respondents. First, the majority of the respondents’ close interracial ties were with members of the congregation. However, of those who named at least one close interracial friendship, merely 15 percent of whites (2 of 13) named close interracial relationships developed outside of the church compared to 64 percent of people of color (7 of 11). The findings suggest that Faith Church supported interracial friendship but, also, that whites’ friendships were primarily limited to the organization. Second, participants that named interracial ties were mostly those who were highly involved in religious activities at Faith Church. Thus, whites who nominated interracial ties were theoretically the best candidates to form durable and mutual ties to people of color because of their frequent contact and commitment to the organizational mission. In Table 2, within-race friendships are the comparison group. Having no close friends of another race corresponds to a racially homogenous close-friends network. More than half of the people of color (8 of 15) claimed more than one close friend of another race, while only 14 percent of white participants (3 of 22) said the same. Moreover, 45 percent of white participants (10 of 22) claimed only one friend of color. These proportional differences in interracial tie nominations leads me to believe that even when networks become more diverse and produce interracial relationships, whites’ interracial relationships may not mean the same as their other close friends. Data gathered from the qualitative descriptions of the participants’ tie nominations reveal stark differences in how race influences the meaning of “close” friends. Table 2. Interracial Friends Named in Top 5 Closest Friends by Race Number of Interracial Ties Named in Closest Friends Racial Group 0 1 2+ People of color (n = 15) 4 2 9 (27%) (13%) (60%) White (n = 22) 9 10 3 (41%) (45%) (14%) Number of Interracial Ties Named in Closest Friends Racial Group 0 1 2+ People of color (n = 15) 4 2 9 (27%) (13%) (60%) White (n = 22) 9 10 3 (41%) (45%) (14%) Table 2. Interracial Friends Named in Top 5 Closest Friends by Race Number of Interracial Ties Named in Closest Friends Racial Group 0 1 2+ People of color (n = 15) 4 2 9 (27%) (13%) (60%) White (n = 22) 9 10 3 (41%) (45%) (14%) Number of Interracial Ties Named in Closest Friends Racial Group 0 1 2+ People of color (n = 15) 4 2 9 (27%) (13%) (60%) White (n = 22) 9 10 3 (41%) (45%) (14%) Qualitative Differences in Social Ties When whites reported one close friend of color in the congregation, these relationships were found to be qualitatively different than their same-race friends. This difference was evident in their responses to the interview questions “What kind of things do you do together?” and “Over the past 12 months, has anyone helped you out?” Whites reported that ties to friends of color ranked lower in intimacy than same-race friendships, were infrequently mentioned as a source of social or material support, and were cited less in activities outside of the congregation. People of color throughout the data paired lists of activities with intimate terms to describe their close friends, regardless of race. They describe relationships that extend beyond the church and into their daily activities. They cite sharing meals, providing emotional support, and celebrating holidays as a few examples of family-like closeness. In the first example, the relationship between Clinton (black, working class) and Jake (white, working class), both in their late 20s, is reported. Clinton calls Jake first for any favor (i.e., moving, loans, personal advice). Clinton hangs out with him frequently outside of church, and Jake was Clinton’s best man in his wedding. In response to questions about emotional support, he says, “I can go to [Jake] for anything” and later comments, “We are like family.” Clinton was instrumental in Jake’s integration into a leadership role at the church. The two had known each other throughout high school and reconnected at a local workout facility. Clinton, who served as a church leader, encouraged Jake to join Faith Church’s young adults group. Clinton’s relationship with Jake mirrored that of his close friend of color, Caston (black, working class). He describes that the relationship spans both church and external activities. We are both ministers at Faith Church and got our credentials together. We are both elders and lead the young adult ministry with two other women. Outside of that, when we are not busy with meetings at church, we are at Caston’s house having a cookout. It doesn’t always start out that way but usually ends that way. But, we also like to do things like play golf, work out or play basketball. Clinton and Caston were close. Their lives intersected within and outside of Faith Church. In an interview with Caston, he says that Clinton is “like a brother” and confirms that they are together often. Along with playing sports, Caston mentions that they get together regularly with their families for special events (i.e., Easter celebrations, birthdays). Clinton’s descriptions of his close friends, Jake and Caston, are both marked with high levels of interaction, intimacy, and integration. In another interview, Randy (white, middle class) talked about two friendships, one same race and one interracial, providing this research with an interesting comparison. Both friendships spanned more than a decade at the church. He first discussed the Stewarts (white, middle class), co-leaders in an annual drama production, then Anthony Johnson (black, middle class). All four worked closely together designing, constructing, and moving the large production to several locations throughout the year. Of the Stewarts, Randy said, “We are close like family. Their families and our families get together on holidays. They come to our house. We usually get together about once a week. We'll be together after we leave here today!” He describes his relationship with Anthony, a close black friend, differently. “Anthony is a good friend. Not as close as the Stewarts as far as being close as family but, as far as a good friend, yeah.” He cited no communication outside of the drama project, saying: We’ve got a lot of stuff going with the Johnsons. He's helped us get a lot of sound equipment that we've needed. He builds churches. He does sound systems for churches. He gets us stuff at his cost. And, sometimes, he gives it to us. Anthony and Randy’s relationship was tied through a formal part of the organization (i.e., service activity) and described as utilitarian (i.e., provide supplies for ministry activity). These are compared to their more reciprocal intraracial friendships that were described as having more emotional intensity and frequent interaction. Close Ties from Two Perspectives Next, George (black, poor) and Jeff (white, working class) both listed each other as close friends. George has participated in Faith Church activities several times a week for more than a decade. He labeled Jeff as one of his closest friends and supported his claim by citing times inside and outside of the church where they spent time together and engaged in intimate conversation. George shifted from his casual posture (reclining in his chair with arms crossed) to a more serious posture (leaning over the table and looking directly at me) and said: After my divorce, I went through a severe depression. He was there. I tried to isolate and stay at home. He would come by my house and get me. He wouldn’t let me stay at home and be alone. He was there for me (laughing). George said that Jeff provided emotional support to him during his divorce. He reiterated that Jeff was a close friend and, later on in the interview, as a member of “my family.” George and Jeff worked together at the same plant before George was injured on the job. They both began substance abuse recovery at about the same time and, eventually, became leaders of the group. When I asked if George ever reciprocated this support, he said: When he went through his divorce he talked to me as well. He and I are close. We confided in each other and prayed together, went out to dinner and just fellowshipped and talked to each other. We both got the same amount of clean time, 14 years. We’ve been clean together 14 years. George considered the friendship to be meaningful and reciprocal. He perceived that their shared struggle to overcome alcohol abuse (“getting clean”) and more than a decade of working together as evidence of a close friendship. Jeff did not see the relationship in the same light. Jeff presented the relationship as a church relationship with very little mutuality, especially when compared to his relationships with other whites. Jeff called George one of his “friends in the ministries” and later as “one of my constituents.” When probed about resource exchanges with George, he responded, “I just do advice and counseling. We bounce things off of each other. That’s what friends are for.” However, when discussing his divorce, Jeff did not mention George’s support at all. Speaking about an older white friend, Jim, and the head pastor, he said: You know, it's good to bounce things off of people. Sometimes they’ve been through it and, for one, they’re always here. You know these men of God stick together. And, I know Pastor counseled with me very closely through my divorce process … Now that is huge! People of color specified exchanges to clarify the strength of their close friendships whereas whites gave little detail. For Jeff, George was just a “friend at church” that he would occasionally “bounce things off of.” These findings expressed how the meaning of a relationship could be distinctly different among interracial friendship pairs. A second example comes from Jeremy (white, middle class), who was a software programmer and volunteer in youth activities. While naming his close friends, Jeremy yelled into an adjacent room to ask his wife for advice and then nominated Marvin Milton (black, working class), a garbage truck driver and head of the food pantry at Faith Church, saying, “Oh yeah, the Miltons, they’re African Americans.” Although they had known each other through church for 15 years, Jeremy described that Marvin was a just friend at church who spent time playing video games with his kids and taught them how to cook. The only other details he gave about the relationship was that his wife had babysat the Milton’s kids in the past. In an interview with Marvin, the relationship between the men took on more importance. Marvin spoke about Jeremy as being “close as a brother.” He described that they shared holidays and were planning a graduation party for Jeremy’s sons. Marvin described that, because of their closeness, he felt compelled to mentor and provide opportunities for those closest to Jeremy. Close Friends in the Spotlight Although the sample was not representative, leadership status within the congregational hierarchical structure appeared to affect friendship nominations. Whites in the congregation named a close friend of color who held a leadership position similar or above their own. Although the majority of high status leaders were white, the visibility of a select few men of color in the congregation could be a key factor in why they were nominated. For example, four men of color received multiple nominations and all held leadership positions where they were constantly in the public eye. Descriptions of two of the leaders, Sean (black, middle class) and Robert (black, middle class), are discussed below. Sean, the music director, was the most visible person of color in the congregation. He was center stage during services on a bi-weekly basis and interacted regularly with Faith Church’s 45-member choir. He was named as a close friend by three white members: a choir member Claudia (white, working class), a fellow musician Sam (white, middle class), and the choir organizer Susan (white, middle class). When asked to describe their relationship with Sean, Claudia and Sam responded briefly. Claudia says that they saw each other at choir activities and that he helped her improve her voice. Sam mentions that they would meet together at the church on occasion and “do music stuff” together. In the following example, Susan names both Sean and Robert during a racially tense interaction. She discusses a time when she reconfigured the choir members by shirt for a television broadcast. She emphasized the extra pressure of making the choir appear diverse and integrated by spreading minority members throughout the choir. Susan was emphatic and expressive during her interview, using hand motions and facial expressions to communicate her tone. To communicate the story, she leans over, arms crossed on the table and speaks softly: You want to have them all interspersed. So, I, uh, (short pause). There was a bunch of black folk on one side, and I said, “OK, you people need to kind of spread in and spread out.” And, I go along my way, figuring that they would realize that I meant their shirt color. However, what I didn't know is that “you people” is kind of a buzzword for blacks. They pick up on that and think that you’re disrespecting them. Susan was confused that a simple pair or words, “you people,” would agitate her choir members. While she was referring to color of shirt, the black choir members interpreted the phrase as a racial slur. Susan heard about the situation from her close friend Sean, the music director and only black member of the Faith Church staff, in their weekly meeting. Of Sean, Susan said “he’s like my boss, my pastor, and my friend.” She reminds me twice that he is black and emphatically responds to the accusation with arms spread wide to signal her confusion: “So I said, ‘I had no idea!’ And, then, because they were accusing me of being deliberately racist, I said, ‘Have they met my son-in-law? Who’s black?’ (Laughing) … That is black! Uh, that is Robert. I went, you know, ‘Really?’” Susan was hurt because she was unable to explain herself. Susan refers to her son-in-law, Robert, as evidence that she is not racist and did not intend to insult the choir members. At that point in the interview, she asked to add her daughter and Robert to her close friends list. Susan’s tie to Robert is through her daughter and was established before they both joined Faith Church. Claiming friends of color after being charged with discrimination is not a new phenomenon. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2010) found that whites often cited “best friends of color” as a colorblind response to avoid being called racist. Susan’s descriptions reveal what a “best” friend of color means. Susan described her same-race relationships as friends who went on vacations together, spent weekends together at festivals, and attended church together. Of these close friends, Susan described that they would go out to eat and dance at a local Italian restaurant on a weekly basis. She also walked with close friend Martha almost daily and, on a weekly basis, the two spent time quilting together. Given the descriptions of each, Susan measures the closeness with Sean using a different metric. Sean directs her in church activities, but is not integrated into her life outside of church. Similarly, she mentions that Robert, her son-in-law, is very close as well. However, her discussions of the two in the interview revolve around the story where she was being accused of being a racist. She felt exonerated from those accusations by citing her relationship with Robert as evidence. Her closeness with these two men was not necessarily tied to frequent interactions with them as with her other friends, but their race was of high symbolic value during interactions at Faith Church. In a separate interview with Sean, Susan was not mentioned at all. Sean described his close friends as being involved in his life inside and outside of the church. They celebrated holidays together, worked on music projects at his home studio, and met for lunch regularly. His silence about his relationship with Susan suggests that the tie lacked the mutuality typical of close ties. The following case also cites Robert. It reveals how whites in the sample differentially integrated their close friendships into their broader networks. Mark (white, middle class) is a ministry leader, former Christian missionary, and owner of a successful construction company. First, Mark responds to questions about the kinds of things he does with his closest same-race friends, Arnold (white, middle class) and John (white, middle class). He lists activities where the men’s families spent time together: “We were just together about a week ago. We went to dinner over at Arnold’s house a couple weeks ago, with our spouses and families. And, we were at John's house the other evening with a couple other families, just playing badminton.” Events, such as dinner and badminton, represent a more personal relationship style. Later in the interview, he mentioned that these families also vacation together, eat lunch together weekly, and discuss personal and business issues. Next, Mark went on to discuss another close friend, Robert (black, middle class), a local physician’s assistant and highly visible leader in the congregation. I go to a men’s bible study at church, and then it developed to where there's just a few, four at most, that hung together as a kind of accountability. We do get together, about every other week. I put Robert down as soon as I, um, I put Robert down because I do more consulting with him. Because, um, at 52, I have aches and pains. So, I call Robert. Mark goes to Robert primarily for medical advice and the descriptors used (i.e., “he’s my doctor”) reveal that the relationship was less personal than his relationship with the Arnolds. As opposed to eating dinner and badminton, they communicate about religious accountability and health care. Mark also said that he saw other close friends once a week for lunch, but these lunches did not include Robert. Mark and Robert were tied primarily through church activities and described as utilitarian. The descriptions of the social tie were strikingly dissimilar in intimacy from Mark’s close white friends. The meaning of the relationship was more about function and formality than attachment and affinity. High Status, Strong Ties For people of color, descriptions of interracial friendships mirrored those of their same-race friendships. Charles (black, middle class), a church choir member and local hospital administrator in his mid 40s, describes two of his close friendships with church leaders, Donald (black, working class) and music director Sean. Donald was on the leadership board, regularly taught bible classes, and worked in a local manufacturing warehouse. He describes his relationship with Donald as one that incorporates both church and non-church activities. The two serve together in men’s ministry, but also spend time together in recreational activities. You see a lot of times we hang out individually. You know, he and I like to hang out and have good times together. Donald and I spend lots of time doing things that involve ministry . . . He actually works side-by-side with me in the men's ministry. But, we also make time to go see a movie. We go bowling and other times, you know, we play basketball. I love basketball! Charles adds that he feels comfortable discussing important issues with Donald. Although they are similar in age, Charles says he thinks of Donald as quite similar in background to his father: I never realized that until we talked, that he had a background like my father. It’s probably the reason why we connect more because he understood what it means coming off the streets … I go to Donald when I need common sense. While Charles says his relationship with Sean is equally strong, he identifies with Sean in a different way than he does with Donald. Sean is very creative. He's more like I am. He's more compassionate. He cares about people. He's a leader. At my job, I lead in my department. So, we have leadership things that we share together. I feel like he gets me. I might have to have a conversation with Donald to get him to see my side. With Sean, if I said “let's do this!” He would be like [smiling and leaning in] “Ah man, I know that’s what we need to do.” So we can run from that point and know exactly what we’re going to do. Charles feels deeply connected to Sean because of their shared vision for leadership and a similar approach to engaging with others. He connects his thoughts about their relationship to activities that they share: “Actually, we go to leadership seminars together because we’re always looking to be a better leader. We share books together with things that we know make a difference in leadership. It's kind of like when the Bible talks about iron sharpening iron.” Both Donald and Sean are highly visible leaders at Faith Church, Charles shares details about how they connect on multiple levels. The relationships are described as meaningful and reciprocal not symbolic or status oriented. Charles describes the friendships of these leaders with both emotional intensity and regular interaction. Valuing Diversity, not Diverse Friendships When discussing their close friends of color, white participants aggressively advocated the importance of their cross-race ties and the value they placed on being around people who are “different.” Most began by citing the lead pastor’s moral imperative for racial diversity and discussed the Downtown Outreach Ministry, a weekly activity that provided physical necessities (i.e., food, clothing) and biblical teaching to inner-city residents. When I probed further with “What kind of things do you do with (friends)?,” whites would have very little to say. One participant, Jane, a white, retired radio host and pharmaceutical salesperson, looked at me puzzled, and feverishly scribbled names on the newspaper in front of her, as if she were calculating her answer. Rubbing her mouth and squinting her eyes, she listed her friends on the paper, then gave them to me in “no particular order.” Her third closest friend, Jenny, was black. When asked about their interactions together, she responded with tears in her eyes and quivering chin, “Nothing, we do nothing together.” She explained that, since her husband had gotten dementia, she had not attended the weekly women’s bible study where she and Jenny spent time together. However, she maintained contact with her two closest white friends via the phone and a small weekly bible study at her home. Another example reveals that descriptions of a white participant’s close friend were tied to church activities and highly symbolic. Janice (white, middle class) is a long-term Faith Church member and small business manager. She and her husband volunteer as premarital advisors to church members, which is hosted over dinner at their home. Janice names Eugene (black, working class), a bible study teacher and board member at Faith Church, as a close friend. She discussed that they had met when Eugene had considered getting remarried and sought their advice eight years before. She describes him distinctly different than her close white friends: “Eugene is an African American. He’s got such a gentle spirit. I just adore him. He makes me think (short pause). You might be too young. Have you ever seen the movie Roots?” I responded that I had not seen the movie. She briefly described that the movie was about slavery and followed a specific family. With tear-filled eyes and quivering chin, she says: It exposes the abuse and unkindness that they were given here by some mean slave owners. And I don’t know why, but, when I think of the movie, I always think, “How would I feel if someone treated James that way?” (crying) Because he is so nice and sweet … Janice explained that Eugene came over occasionally for marital counseling and described Eugene as kind and gentle. Midway during her description, she abruptly described the relationship with a symbolic connection to a 1970s film about slavery. Janice’s tearful connection of James to a character in Roots represents a “close” friendship drastically dissimilar to her same-race friends. Speaking of her close white friends, Theresa (white, middle class), she says, “We talk together on the phone and get together on all major holidays. They’re like family.” One relationship is like family and the other reminds her of slavery. The stark contrast between the description of her two close friends reveals that Janice saw her tie with Eugene through a racialized lens. Such data suggest the tie was about valuing diversity and not the quality of the relationship. The Exceptions to the Rule There were exceptions to the one friend rule. Two white participants reported close friendships with people of color that mirrored the mutuality of their white friends. First, Walter (white, middle class), a Faith Church staff member, named black friends who were primarily in the seniors’ activities group that he led. Overall, he describes his relationships with his friends of color as “people caring for their pastor” and mentions frequent interaction both inside and outside of congregational activities. The friendships were primarily tied to church activities, but they were also framed as meaningful and reciprocal. The second exception was a ministry leader, Jake (white, working class), whose interracial friends are his brother-in-law Caston (black, middle class) and a fellow leader at the church, Clinton (black, working class). Jake’s tie to Caston was not reciprocated but the description detailed that they spent time together at church activities and family cookouts. His relationship with fellow ministry leader, Clinton, appears to be reciprocal as Clinton also named Jake as a close friend. Jake and Clinton were friends in high school and reconnected at a local gym. In their interviews, both Jake and Clinton described spending time with each other in and outside of church. They engaged in home bible study together and dined together at local restaurants with their wives. That the Jake/Clinton and Walter/Jessie relationships are exceptions to the rule is, of course, a conservative interpretation. Both relationships were represented as meaningful, reciprocal ties; yet, the direct impact of the organizational culture on these ties remains unclear. Indeed, and given that Jake and Clinton knew each other throughout high school, the strength of their connection could have been more about relational duration and less about its mediation through church. Moreover, the relationship between Walter and Jessie might also have been about the status differentials between a leader and group members. Future work would benefit from deeper interrogation of both the causal sequence of ties, and multiple, complex, and intersecting statuses—a point I return to below. Discussion This article highlights the impact of race on social capital mobilization among the members of a racially diverse religious organization. Using data from 37 in-depth interviews of regularly attending members, distinct patterns appeared in the depth of friendships formed across racial groups. The qualitative data revealed that most people of color discussed their closest friendships, regardless of race, as meaningful and reciprocal. Whites followed this same pattern for their same race friendships, but named qualitatively different reasons for interracial ties. Whites’ “close” ties to people of color in the sample have symbolic value but lack the durability and mutuality that typically accompanies strong ties. Consequently, the one friend rule reveals that people of color have little power to mobilize the resources embedded in whites’ broader networks. Is Racial Diversity Progressive in the Twenty-First Century? The one friend rule challenges the assumptions that racial diversity alone reduces socioeconomic inequality. Current data suggests that individuals in interracial organizations claim racially diverse networks, and that intergroup contact promotes positive attitudes about race (Fischer 2008; Moody 2001; Yancey 2007). However, these findings cannot be taken at face value. Most white members of Faith Church interviewed for this study seemed to accept the value of diversity promoted by church leaders and paired it with “close,” but tenuous, friendships with persons of color. Tie nomination alone has no real impact on racial inequality, although many scholars have used this measure to imply progress. When whites followed the one friend rule, they named a close tie that was inherently weak to project a generalized value for diversity. For example, most highly involved whites in the sample from Faith Church described their relationships with people of color in utilitarian terms and noted time spent together as church activities, while reserving more intimate terms for their white social ties. The interracial ties appear progressive at first glance. However, the inherent value of their interracial ties does not extend beyond the church because the tie is seen through a racialized lens. Whites confer additional status to the close friend of color because of its symbolic meaning within a racially diverse organization (Gondal and McLean 2013; Podolny 2001). In order for a generalized value for diversity and tie nomination to have an impact on racial inequality, whites must empower people of color to mobilize resources in networks that they do not already possess. The Impact on Social Capital of the One Friend Rule The one friend rule suggests that scholars testing social capital must pay close attention to the quality and meaning of relationships in interracial networks. A key component of Nan Lin’s (2001) conception of social capital is that shared resources are mobilized for purposive actions. The in-depth analyses reveal that opportunities for interracial social capital mobilization are reduced by the way individuals perceive their relationships. The one friend rule expands current discussions of social capital to address how race affects tie formation within interracial networks. Scholars argue that people of color often have sufficient access to networks but lack the ability to mobilize them to get job referrals, recommendations, or other social resources (Fernandez and Fernandez-Mateo 2006; Smith 2005). Returns from social capital are constrained, in part, by time necessary to develop ties that can be mobilized. While whites can almost immediately generate symbolic value from ties, people of color would need to invest more time, energy, and resources to generate actual value from the relationship. These investments would lead to return deficits for people of color (Lin 2001). Racial inequality will be reduced when whites consider close friendships with people of color in the same terms as close friendships with other whites because the power to mobilize will increase with the strength of the relationship. The data revealed two themes about interracial friendship when whites followed the one friend rule. First, people of color represented an interracial relationship as highly intimate, while whites framed the same relationship as close, but strictly a “church friend.” Whites who frame an interracial relationship as a church friend do not share the same level of mutual obligation as the minority friend in the relationship. Second, whites named highly visible leaders of color as close friends over other white leaders who made up the majority of the staff and leadership. Research suggests that close ties are typically nominated to express shared cultural preferences and/or to attach to those with high status (Gould 2002; Lizardo 2006; Martin 2009). The one friend rule suggests one of two conclusions: (1) racial diversity is so highly regarded in the organization that other status markers are irrelevant or (2) the tie represents the only person of color with whom a tie exists. Regardless of the motivation, when whites named highly visible leaders, the relationships were not reciprocated (or even mentioned) by those nominated. Perhaps, highly visible men of color may not be aware that their positions increase access to social resources in white networks (Burt 1992). People of color cannot mobilize resources in social ties that they do not know exist. Implications for Future Research Expanding the One Friend Rule The one friend rule is a theoretical concept that can be empirically tested in myriad social groups where parametric diversity exists. Future research should build network studies that account for the micro-level social mechanisms to understand how dominant groups justify disparate outcomes. By understanding the impact of race on tie meanings in an interracial network, social capital theory can be used to uncover mechanisms behind the socioeconomic inequality that pervades the American social structure. The one friend rule can be used to understand tie nomination within multiple types of diverse networks. For example, men may mobilize the sex of a “close” friend when defending his value for gender diversity in the workplace. A politician may mobilize the ethnicity of a “close” friend in attempts to appeal for support of immigration. Additionally, a straight author may mobilize the sexual preference of a “close” friend if accused of writing homophobic literature. In each case, majority members can mobilize the social characteristics of their ties without providing evidence that a meaningful relationship exists. One limitation of the one friend rule is found at the intersection of gender and race. Black women were, to a large extent, left out of the close friendship nominations of both white men and women in the sample. Because their status as women and as a social minority are devalued, they have little power in the tie formation process (Ridgeway 1991). Thus, women of color cannot access, mobilize, or even slightly benefit from symbolic value generated from interracial ties as men of color. These findings at the intersection of race and gender reveal that inequalities for women of color are exacerbated in racially diverse organizations (Collins 1990). White women, on the other hand, assigned symbolic value to black men because of their race and elevated status (i.e., leadership positions), and because of their gender. They overrode negative symbolic constructions of black men and gender homophily in their nominations of black leaders. The propensity to elevate men of color, if only symbolically, over women of color suggests that deeper consideration of intersectionality and symbolic constructions of identity, particularly within organizations, is warranted. Such efforts might best draw on works regarding intersectional inequality in general (e.g., Clarke and McCall 2013; Collins 1990, 2015; Crenshaw 1991), and identity salience (e.g., Lamont and Fournier 1992; Wharton 2000), and how these play out in organizational contexts (e.g., Edwards, Christerson, and Emerson 2013; Ortiz and Roscigno 2009). The One Friend Rule in Interracial Organizations Consistent with work on multiracial churches, my case’s organizational mission influenced its members’ attitudes about race (Edwards et al. 2013). Participants focused on the pastor’s insistence on valuing diversity as they described the transition towards a racially diverse organization. However, outcomes in the case of diverse church reveal that the impact remains insular. For whites, close interracial social ties were rarely reciprocal or extended beyond the congregational context. Given a single case design, these findings are not generalizable to all diverse organizations. However, interracial organizations, indeed, will have little impact on systems of racial inequality if white members embrace micro-level mechanisms like the one friend rule. Moreover, the one friend rule clarifies the impact of diverse organizations on systemic racial stratification. Evidence in this article suggests that white members of an interracial organization embraced the call to develop a generalized value for diversity. After the congregation hired one man of color to be a member of the otherwise completely white paid leadership team, church members mirrored the structure in their personal networks. Organizational culture and structure provided a racialized and gendered lens through which the majority viewed racial minorities and assigned them value. Ties were, thus, nominated because of the status conferred by their symbolic value in the broader social group (Podolny 2001). The one friend rule will thrive in a social group whose culture promotes a generalized value for diversity. Diversity programs and policies elevate people of color (especially men) into “token” positions within an organization that are defined as higher-status, yet are primarily symbolic and lack power (Collins 1997). Organizational tokens in formal organizations receive minor increases in status but bear the responsibility of representing their group (i.e., race), are burdened by higher expectations as a sole representative, and feel pressure to perform extraordinarily to protect their status (Kanter 1977). Voluntary organizations have been slower to adopt integration, but use similar tactics to increase diversity within their groups (Berrey 2015). The one friend rule also operates in social groups where non-dominant subgroups structurally supersede a token presence in the broader group. For example, at Faith Church people of color represented almost 40 percent of the organization and are involved in multiple areas of leadership. Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1977) argued that as subgroups within an organization move from tilted (i.e., 65/35) towards balanced (i.e., 60/40, 50/50) proportions, non-dominant groups have more power to enforce social norms. Recent work testing Kanter’s hypotheses revealed that proportion shifts of non-dominant groups have slightly reduced inequalities, but the relative power of the subgroup remains an important factor (Shor et al. 2015). In addition, larger balance in subgroup proportions also increases the likelihood of regular contact across subgroups (Skvoretz 1983). While intergroup contact across groups correlates with more positive attitudes about non-dominant groups (Yancey 2007), intergroup contact also makes actors anxious and more likely to develop strategies to protect from relational uncertainty (Pettigrew 1998; Podolny 2001). Consequently, one could expect the one friend rule to emerge in groups where egalitarian contact threatens the power of a dominant group. Conclusions Dr. King’s call for racial integration was made half a century ago, yet some scholars still use diversity as a metric for progress. Even within racially diverse organizations, however, social capital mobilization is stunted by the one friend rule. In a post-race America, societal expectations of whites remain too low to dismantle systems of racial stratification. Whites should be expected to move beyond a generalized value of diversity. To be excused from accusations of racism they should be expected to value diversity, develop meaningful, reciprocal relationships with members outside of their group, and be engaged in reducing barriers to socioeconomic inequality for people of color in American society. 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Social Problems – Oxford University Press
Published: Jun 21, 2017
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