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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2018




Harvard Law School




The aim of this article is to begin to theorize the fraught space within which class-privileged racial minorities exist — the disadvantage within their privilege. The article posits that the invisibility of the racial subordination of wealthier people of color (that is, their marginalization on account of their race) is fertile soil for the germination of post-racialism — the sense that we, as a nation, have overcome our racial problems. The dramatic visibility of the minority poor’s suffering, combined with the relative invisibility of the suffering of those minorities who are not poor, breeds the belief that class is now the main issue; it breeds the belief that class is the thing that really matters. If, as post-racialism suggests, class is the real problem, then we can, and ought to, dismantle any racial stratification that we witness through race-neutral, class-based means. But, if race remains a real problem — that is, if people and groups continue to be disadvantaged on account of their race — then the class-based mechanisms will not actually eliminate racial inequality. Thus, it is important for us to see the race-based disadvantage that class-privileged people of color endure in order to defeat post-racial thinking.

The article demonstrates that the illegibility of the racial subordination of wealthier people of color is owed, in part, to our existing theories of racial discrimination. It shows that our theories of racial discrimination have led us to conceptualize economic disadvantage as constituting the entire universe of racial disadvantage. If economic disadvantage does, in fact, constitute the universe of racial disadvantage, then those who are not economically disadvantaged (i.e., wealthier people of color) have not been racially disadvantaged at all. However, the reality is that economic subordination is just one element of racial subordination. Racial discrimination has disadvantaged people of color not only economically, but also socioculturally and politically. Thus, if we are to bring visibility to the racial subordination that wealthier people of colorexperience — a visibility that may keep post-racial thinking at bay — then we have to theorize the noneconomic injuries that racial discrimination inflicts. This article begins this endeavor.


Boston University School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 18-04

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