'All (Poor) Lives Matter': How Class-Not-Race Logic Reinscribes Race and Class Privilege

University of Chicago Law Review Online, 2020

12 Pages Posted: 5 Jan 2021

Date Written: October 30, 2020


In "An Intersectional Critique of Tiers of Scrutiny," Professors Devon Carbado and Kimberlé Crenshaw infuse affirmative action with an overdue dose of intersectionality theory. Their intervention, which highlights the disfavored remedial status of Black women, exposes equality law as an unmarked intersectional project that “privileges the intersectional identities of white antidiscrimination claimants.”

In this Essay, I draw upon "An Intersectional Critique" but shift the focus from race and gender to race and class. Specifically, I refocus the intersectional lens on an ongoing site of contestation: the argument that universities should consider an applicant’s socioeconomic class but not her race — what I refer to herein as “class-not-race” reforms.

As I describe herein, class-not-race logic ultimately serves neither poor whites nor people of color. To be sure, economically disadvantaged students enjoy certain benefits under admissions regimes that attend to class (relative to ones that do not). It is also true that poor whites, whose racial identity neither compounds nor deepens their class disadvantage, are often favored intersectional subjects under class-not-race frameworks. But in meaningful respects, the modest racial privilege enjoyed by poor whites only masks how class-not-race constitutionalism fortifies structural and institutional arrangements that keep those on the top at the top, and those on the bottom — poor whites included — at the bottom. In so doing, equality law commits the ultimate intersectionality sin: reinforcing structural hierarchies.

Suggested Citation

Feingold, Jonathan, 'All (Poor) Lives Matter': How Class-Not-Race Logic Reinscribes Race and Class Privilege (October 30, 2020). University of Chicago Law Review Online, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3720744

Jonathan Feingold (Contact Author)

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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