Race Audits

53 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2010 Last revised: 1 Sep 2011

See all articles by R. A. Lenhardt

R. A. Lenhardt

Fordham University School of Law

Date Written: July 2011


The U.S. Supreme Court’s race jurisprudence suffers from a stunning lack of imagination where possibilities for meaningful local government involvement in combating structural racial inequality are concerned. Cases such as Parents. and Ricci limit dramatically the freedom that localities have to address racial inequity within their borders. Instead of constraints on local efforts in the race context, Professor Lenhardt argues that what we need, if persistent racial inequalities are ever to be eliminated, is greater innovation and experimentation. In this article, Professor Lenhardt thus introduces an extra-judicial tool called the race audit, which would permit individual cities or a regional coalition of localities voluntarily to determine the extent to which their governmental systems and policies create, enable, or perpetuate inequitable conditions for racial minorities. This tool, grounded in the tenets of structuralism, breaks from traditional audit mechanisms in the race context by eschewing a singular focus on intentional discrimination. Instead, it seeks to uncover the specific structural mechanisms that generate cumulative racial disadvantage across domains, time and generations by, inter alia, being attuned to the spatial dimensions, meaning, and operation of race in the United States. The race audit’s main goal – which falls outside the reach of most existing tools for measuring discrimination – would be achieved through the work of a “community of inquiry” consisting of academics, philanthropic organizations, non-profits and civil rights groups, governmental agencies, and business leaders charged with assessing the segregative effects of the locality’s policies and programs. The race audit process, whose results might be similar to those produced by truth and reconciliation commissions, would produce a counter-narrative about race in metropolitan areas whose telling would have numerous benefits, including generating more effective remedies for addressing structural discrimination, and promoting democratic conversations about equality and what is necessary to secure belonging at the local level. Most of all, the race audit would make apparent the deep potential cities have for being important “equality innovators.”

Suggested Citation

Lenhardt, Robin A., Race Audits (July 2011). Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 62, p. 1527, 2011, Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1696017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1696017

Robin A. Lenhardt (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics