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Abstract

Discrimination persists throughout in-person American discourse, regardless of various attempts to alleviate racism. Considering students’ self-reported perceptions of crime and safety—racialized domains—in Chicago, I explore how students employ semantic moves to distance themselves from their intended statements. These semantic moves vary in quality and type, ranging from neutralizing language to euphemisms. Drawing from 20 interviews of undergraduates at the University of Chicago—a medium-sized, liberal university surrounded by poorer, Black neighborhoods—my results demonstrate that students’ semantic moves reflect the discourse of other students regarding racialized domains, like affirmative action. I contextualize my results by investigating the history of urban renewal in the US and Hyde Park. For the latter, I focus on the University’s role. I then interpret this using Salomon’s New Governance theory, Vargas’s work on “turf wars”, as well as Lipsky’s Street Level Bureaucracy, and conclude with recommendations to increase contact between undergraduates and Chicagoans to normalize surrounding neighborhoods.

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