How are whites injured by minority-targeted racism? For years, American antidiscrimination scholars and judges have not looked beyond the familiar answers provided by Civil Rights Era norms. According to these norms, the primary injuries whites suffer due to minority targeted discrimination are denial of the enjoyment of a colorblind workplace or frustration of their interest in diversity, including the opportunity to associate with minorities. Consistent with this view, Title VII interracial association doctrine — the vehicle that permits whites to sue for minority targeted discrimination in the workplace — only recognizes these two narrow categories of injury. However, review of failed Title VII interracial association cases provides a far richer account of how whites are injured by minority targeted discrimination, one that forces us to re-evaluate our focus on Civil Rights Era understandings of white injury. Relying in part on these failed interracial assoc iation cases, this Article offers a new theory called “marginal whiteness,” to provide a conceptual understanding of this broader set of injuries. What the marginal whiteness framework reveals is that many low-status, or “marginal whites,” are secondary casualties of higher-status whites’ attempts to discriminate against minorities. After identifying some of the concrete economic and social costs “marginal whites” suffer from minority targeted discrimination, the Article explores how the recognition of marginal whites will force antidiscrimination scholars to develop more nuanced complex understanding of white privilege. It discusses the repercussions of this insight for Title VII law, Critical White Studies and for antidiscrimination scholarship more generally.
Labor and Employment Law
Date of this Version
Camille Gear Rich, "Marginal Whiteness" (March 2009). University of Southern California Legal Studies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 25.