This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

December 17, 2009

Should We Try a ‘Class’ for ‘Race’ Switcheroo?

I think the time has long passed for adding socioeconomic status to the categories of affirmative action, but it must not and cannot be viewed as a replacement for race. Poverty is not a proxy for race, and to pretend that it is would eradicate the initial rationale for affirmative action—to correct for society’s demonstrable biases against people of color regardless of their socioeconomic status.

The murder some years ago of Bill Cosby’s son by a white racist who later bragged about the shooting to his friends shows how feeble the Cosbys’s great wealth was in protecting their son against this ugly virus. The recent news that black graduates of prestigious colleges and universities feel they must “whiten” their résumés to hide their blackness demonstrates how little effect affirmative action in its original iteration has today, and how our current substitution of “diversity” for actual race-based affirmative action has rendered the latter almost useless. How many of our colleges count students from Africa and elsewhere toward their “affirmative action” goals?

So bring on socioeconomic status. And while you’re at it, bring back race-based policies—you cannot get beyond race without going to race.

~Julian Bond, Chronicle of Higher Education,
Reactions: Is It Time for Class-Based Affirmative Action?



  1. Classism – the new Racism!! If you look at our current financial situation in America the Middle Class has been hit hard by the Recession. So you know the Working Poor is taking double the heat. Therefore regular Poor Folks are in pain. This leaves Upper Middle Class, Rich People, Wealthy and Uber Wealthy still doing their thing. The class system in America is changing. Do I think that a white man from the blue ridge mountains has a better shot over a black man from the inner city in getting work…in some places yes. That won’t change but the access to services, goods, education, housing etc will be hard to get for those that aren’t in the upper classes.

    Comment by citizen ojo — December 18, 2009 @ 12:43 am

  2. The problem I have with this is that nothing is the “new” racism. The new racism is the old racism, and the racism-classism intersection is twice as much taste and even less filling.

    Perhaps part of the problem is how class (esp “middle class”) is often defined. Part of the White-Black gap, for example, might be explained by noting that many in the Black middle class are not really “middle class” at all. Perhaps class needs to include not just traditional measures like income, job level and education level, but accumulated wealth and number of generations in that class status.

    Comment by pprscribe — December 18, 2009 @ 5:40 pm

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