Maneuvers of whiteness: 'diversity' as a mechanism of retrenchment in the affirmative action discourse

Wendy Leo Moore, Joyce M. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Through a discourse analysis of three textual sources within elite law schools, we suggest that the white racial frame and the diversity construct are key mechanisms in the process of stalling racial reform by imposing tacit boundaries around the discourse surrounding progressive racial policies. We contend that this limits their effectiveness, resulting in the retrenchment of white racial privilege and power and that this happens without any explicit expression of racial animosity by whites participating in the discourse. To illustrate this process, we analyze the discourse concerning affirmative action, a policy designed to end racial discrimination in and redistribute resources related to employment and education. We focus on the institutional setting of elite law schools both because of its socializing influence on those who will make and interpret affirmative action law and because it represents an institution in which the policy may be utilized in student selection and faculty hiring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-613
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Sociology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011


  • affirmative action
  • diversity
  • law schools
  • legal education
  • multiculturalism
  • race
  • whiteness


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