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University of California - Davis




Part I of this Essay describes the new NBA dress code and then lays the framework for the discussions that ensued after the implementation of the code. Part II examines how some Blacks' defense of the allegedly discriminatory NBA appearance policy does not in itself negate claims of racial discrimination. In so doing, this Part explicates the various ways in which Blacks are pressured to perform their racial identity in order to advance in society - in particular, the ways in which outsiders often must conform to traditional standards of appearance and must distinguish themselves from the "bad outsiders" or the "bad Blacks" to succeed within the dominant culture. As a background for understanding the phenomenon of "volunteer discrimination," Part II.A analyzes and explains how race is socially constructed by markers for racial identity, which include not only skin color, but more importantly, characteristics that revolve around how one performs his or her race, such as hairstyle, dress, and voice. Part 11.B then explores and probes the three separate behaviors that I refer to as "volunteer discrimination" to demonstrate how these distinct acts of accommodating, distancing, and resigned modeling not only do not contradict claims of racial stereotyping but can actually work to reify and stabilize racial hierarchies. Part III highlights the importance of understanding the various incentives behind the three behaviors I have identified as "volunteer discrimination" when evaluating or weighing black-on-black testimony within the context of an employment discrimination case. Finally, I conclude this Essay by highlighting the dangers of using "voluntary" submission to discrimination by some outsiders to support claims of nondiscrimination against others. I stress the importance of considering race in a way that acknowledges, understands, and evaluates claims of racial discrimination with as much complexity as the actual functioning of racism, including racial stereotyping, within our society.

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