Diversity Discourse as Racialized and Double-edged: Findings from a National Survey

Neeraj Rajasekar, Matthew Aguilar-Champeau, Douglas Hartmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The keyword diversity is common in contemporary U.S. culture, but it can refer to many forms of difference; questions remain about the meaning and consequences of “diversity,” especially regarding whether this concept is commonly recognized in the American imagination and how diversity discourse relates to racial hierarchy in the United States. We use nationally representative survey data to address these questions through a critical race theory lens. First, we conduct factor analysis upon three different items that ask participants to evaluate or characterize “diversity.” These three items are well-predicted by a single latent factor, and this factor proves distinct from possible confounders such as prejudicial attitudes, misgivings about immigration and demographic change, and color-blind racial attitudes. Second, we see that diversity attitudes have a double-edged relationship with other attitudes that relate to racial hierarchy in the United States. Using regressions, we find that positivity toward diversity predicts equitable, non-racist stances on several race-related attitudes such as support for affirmative action and acknowledgment of white privilege. On the contrary, positivity toward diversity is also associated with core cultural ideologies which normalize racial inequality and implicitly denigrate minorities, such as color-blind racism and meritocracy. Thus, our study establishes that a coherent and distinct recognition of diversity exists in the American imagination and that diversity discourse has a double-edged relationship with racial hierarchy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)315-332
Number of pages18
JournalSociology of Race and Ethnicity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This paper was written in conjunction with the American Mosaic Project. The authors greatly appreciate the support for data collection and research assistance given by the National Science Foundation (Grant Nos. 1258926 and 1258933) and the Edelstein Family Foundation to support survey data collection.

Publisher Copyright:
© American Sociological Association 2022.


  • attitudes
  • critical
  • discourse
  • diversity
  • public opinion


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