Researcher ORCID Identifier
Date of Submission
Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
In 1993 Cheryl Harris delivers a scathing review of the effects of American slavery on the socioeconomic status of black Americans in Whiteness as Property. In her criticisms of the rulings of Brown v. Board of Education and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Harris uses these cases and others to show how affirmative action is meant to equalize the socioeconomic status of white and black Americans and does not conflict with the Constitution, which Harris observes through the lens of whiteness as property. Harris’ goal is to show that affirmative action is the only means to dismantle whiteness as property and restore equality of resources. Harris sufficiently proves that affirmative action as it currently exists does not violate constitutional law but the same cannot be said of the expansive version of affirmative action she wishes to enact. To show this, I first critique Harris’ analysis of Brown v. Board to show how far the reach of the Supreme Court extends when remedying inequities. Then I demonstrate how, under Ronald Dworkin’s robust definition of equality of resources, Harris’ affirmative action policy will not achieve its aims. Then, I demonstrate the parallels between Harris’ affirmative action policy and Elizabeth Anderson’s residential integration policy, which is critiqued by Tommie Shelby in Dark Ghettos. I argue that Harris, like Anderson, falls into Shelby’s medical model of social policy that fails to properly address the issues at the heart of the problems they aim to solve. From the failures of Harris’ policy I argue that whiteness as property as a concept must be dismissed to refocus efforts on addressing the real issues that perpetuate the material inequities that disproportionately affect black Americans.
Townsend, Gino, "The Limits of Affirmative Action and the Illusion of Whiteness as Property" (2020). CMC Senior Theses. 2515.