How Diversity Transforms the Project of Racial Equality

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Over the last 35 years, discourse on "diversity" has become commonplace in many U.S. institutions. My research interrogates diversity as a racialized political project, focusing on the organizational uses of diversity discourse. I base my analysis on case studies of a public university, a Fortune 500 company, and a city neighborhood, documented through six years of ethnographic, interview, and archival data. Administrators, executives, and political leaders in these disparate sites have established diversity as the orthodox, color-conscious language and logic of race, difference and inclusion. Their ideology of diversity presents inclusion and difference as both morally good and institutionally beneficial. These organizational decision-makers acknowledge race as a meaningful cultural category in social life and a salient attribute of personal identity. At the same time, they downplay problems of racial and class inequality, the imperative of redressing these inequalities, and the value of federal and private programs that explicitly seek to redress such disadvantages. In so doing, they help to transform the politics of racial inclusion and a political agenda based on remedying racial and economic disadvantage. Building on racial formation theory and cultural analyses of law and inequality, my findings demonstrate how decision-makers have adapted the meaning of race and the terms of institutional inclusion to fit better the political and organizational demands of the neoliberal, post-civil rights context.

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  • 09/13/2018
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