Monopolizing Whiteness

67 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2020 Last revised: 16 Jun 2021

See all articles by Erika K. Wilson

Erika K. Wilson

University of North Carolina School of Law

Date Written: August 6, 2020


In racially diverse metropolitan areas throughout the country, school district boundary lines create impermeable borders, separating affluent and predominately white school districts from low-income predominately non-white school districts. The existence of predominately white and affluent school districts in racially diverse metropolitan areas has material consequences and symbolic meaning. Materially, such districts receive greater educational inputs such as higher per-pupil-spending, higher teacher quality, and newer facilities than their neighboring more racially diverse districts. Symbolically, owing to the material and status-based value attached to whiteness, the districts are also viewed as elite, which creates a magnet effect that draws white affluent families.

Despite the material consequences and symbolic meaning of maintaining predominately white school districts, a limited amount of scholarship addresses racial segregation in schools from the vantage point of white students. This Article fills that void in the school desegregation legal literature. It analyzes white student segregation through a sociological framework called social closure. Social closure is a process of subordination whereby one group monopolizes advantages by closing off opportunities to other groups. The article argues that the laws surrounding school district boundary lines enable white students in racially diverse metropolitan areas to engage in social closure and to monopolize high-quality schools.

The Article further suggests that equal protection doctrine, the doctrine traditionally used to address racial segregation in schools, cannot capture the monopolization harms caused by white student segregation. It therefore looks to antitrust law for guidance. It demonstrates how principles from the antitrust essential facilities doctrine can help conceptualize and remedy the monopolization harms caused by white student segregation in racially diverse metropolitan areas.

Keywords: School Segregation; Equal Protection; Monopoly; Fourteenth Amendment; Race; Critical Race Theory; Sherman Act; Essential Facilities Doctrine; Social Closure

Suggested Citation

Wilson, Erika K., Monopolizing Whiteness (August 6, 2020). 134 Harv. L. Rev. 2382 (2021), UNC Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: or

Erika K. Wilson (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

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