"Racing for innocence": Whiteness, corporate culture, and the backlash against affirmative action

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Abstract

This paper argues that "racing for innocence" is a discursive practice which functions simultaneously to disavow accountability for racist practices at the same time that everyday racism is practiced. Drawing from both fieldwork and interviews in a corporate legal department over two different time periods (in 1988-89 and in 1999), I explore the meaning and consequence of this "race" in my interviews with white and African-American lawyers. Further, I follow the trajectory of one African-American lawyer, Randall Kingsley, and tell his story along with the stories constructed by the white men who still work there about Randall's departure from the company. I do so to make an argument about why these white men, by virtue of their social location, cannot see how they contributed to the unfriendly climate that forced Randall out of the department. Further, I argue it is through such everyday practices that whiteness is reproduced as a structural relationship of inequality in workplaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-70
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Sociology
Volume26
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003

Keywords

  • Affirmative action
  • Lawyers
  • Racism
  • Whiteness

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