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Where's the Justice? Affirmative Action's Severed Civil Rights Roots in the Age of Diversity

  • Daniel N. Lipson (a1)

The institutionalization of race-conscious inclusion policies in employment, education, and contracting has largely endured in post-civil rights America despite predictions of their demise. However, scholarship has continued to mislabel many of the specific policies in these organizations and governments as “affirmative action” policies, even though many such policies lack the civil rights roots necessary to warrant this label. In this article, I explain how many organizations have recast, supplemented, or replaced their rights-based affirmative action policies with utilitarian diversity policies. While the conventional, civil rights framework for analyzing affirmative action obscures the rise of such organizational diversity policies, an alternative body of scholarship that employs a diversity framework has shed light on the causes, content, and consequences of this policy and political realignment. The Supreme Court's 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decision and the political activism surrounding Michigan's Proposal 2 in 2006 both exemplify the trademark signs of this shift from rights-based affirmative action to organizational diversity policies. The article concludes by assessing the promise and dangers of this trend of rooting racial inclusion policies in a utilitarian diversity logic rather than a civil rights logic.

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