Uncovering Covering

43 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2007 Last revised: 11 Nov 2007


Kenji Yoshino's COVERING argues that the pressure to tone down a disfavored identity to fit into the mainstream or cover is the civil rights issue of our time. While Yoshino laid out this core argument in his Covering law review article, the COVERING book takes what appears to be a large step forward. Yoshino reaches beyond traditional civil rights groups and emphasizes that everyone covers - even the angry straight white men who tend to challenge Yoshino when he lectures on covering. When one strips away the rhetoric, however, we can see that Yoshino offers those excluded from the civil rights paradigm no new rights or protections. Indeed, the book can be read to cover the same minority-focused theory from Yoshino's law review article with language that makes it more friendly to majority groups. In so doing, the book obscures two additional sources of covering. This Essay provides a fuller description of covering by unpacking (1) minority group imposed-covering and (2) self-covering, which interact with the majority-imposed covering that is Yoshino's focus. This Essay then compares Yoshino's scholarship with the identity work scholarship by Devon Carbado & Mitu Gulati and finds significant differences that scholars have often overlooked. Carbado & Gulati's focus on performances intended to combat stereotypes in the workplace - a legally regulated realm in which power differentials consistently create greater performative demands on outsiders - provides a more coherent explanation for how this body of scholarship connects with prevailing antidiscrimination law and theory.

Keywords: racial identity, civil rights, stereotyping, racial discrimination

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Russell K., Uncovering Covering. Northwestern University Law Review, Vol. 101, pp. 1809-1850, 2007, UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 07-06, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=964330

Russell K. Robinson (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-3932 (Phone)

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