Du Bois Review


EMBEDDING THE COLOR LINE: The Accumulation of Racial Advantage and the Disaccumulation of Opportunity in Post-Civil Rights America

Michael K.  Brown  a1 c1 and David  Wellman  a2
a1 Department of Politics, University of California, Santa Cruz
a2 Department of Community Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz

Article author query
brown mk   [Google Scholar] 
wellman d   [Google Scholar] 


This article investigates why deeply entrenched racial inequality persists into the post-civil rights era in the United States. It challenges individual-level explanations that assume persistent racial inequality is the result of either White bigotry, which is diminishing, or the failure of Blacks to take advantage of the opportunities opened up by the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. We propose an alternative explanation for durable racial inequality. Contemporary color lines, we argue, result from the cumulative effect of racial discrimination and exclusion, a process in which Whites accumulate racial advantages to the detriment of African Americans and Latinos. These cumulative inequalities are produced and sustained by competition between racial groups to acquire and control jobs and other resources, and by institutional practices and public policies. Individual choice in the form of intentional racism has little to do with the persistence of racial inequality. Our analysis suggests that Americans' current understanding of the concept of equality of opportunity is out of sync with the realities of durable racial inequality, and needs to be revised.

Key Words: Racial Inequality; Equality of Opportunity; Labor Market Discrimination; Residential Segregation; Race and the Welfare State.

c1 Professor Michael Brown, Department of Politics, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064. E-mail: popcorn@ucsc.edu