Racial Progress for the Post-civil Rights Era

In The Enigma of Diversity, sociologist Ellen Berry explains how those who champion a flat conception of diversity have “redefined racial progress for the post-civil rights era, from a legal fight for equal rights to a celebration of cultural difference as a competitive advantage” in which everyone (theoretically) wins.24 More pointedly, the late political scientist Lee Ann Fujii reminds us that the lack of genuine diversity “maintains a racialized way of seeing the world. This lens of default Whiteness is assumed to be neutral, unraced, and ungendered, and therefore ‘scientifically’ sound. But Whiteness is anything but.”25

Finally, legal scholar Nancy Leong details how institutions commodify racial diversity for their own benefit, defining, in her analysis, racial capitalism as “the process of deriving social and economic value from the racial identity of another person.”26

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Building on these critiques, we can consider how technologies mediate racial capitalism by encoding racialized distinctions “in service” to diverse populations. And sociotechnical interventions rely on fixed notions of ethno-racial difference to solve different kinds of problems. Most importantly, a racial fix is itself a social technology that creates vertical realities – freedom, security, and happiness above and bondage, precarity, and misery below – all the while masking and distorting the lives of the latter from those who experience the former.