Daria Roithmayr's Discussion Abstract
Daria Roithmayr is the George T. and Harriet E. Pfleger Chair in Law at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.
Discussion Title: Reproducing Racism: Using Empirical Research to Theorize About Race, Class and Structure.
In my recent book, Reproducing Racism, I argue that racial disparity persists because it has become self-reinforcing, reproducing itself automatically from generation to generation even in the absence of intentional discrimination.
In the second part of the book, I focus on a set of positive feedback loops that connect the dramatic disparity of Jim Crow and slavery to modern racial gaps in jobs, housing and education. I look at four different types of racialized "networks" that function to reproduce the early unfair advantage that whites gained by legally excluding blacks and Latinos: (i) Wealthy white families pass down their ill-gotten wealth via house down payments and college tuition to their children, which in turn enables them to earn more wealth; (ii) Wealthy white neighborhoods use their wealth to fund public schools that then turn out wealthy white neighbors. (iii) In social networks, whites with lucrative jobs informally refer their friends, who in turn refer their friends, etc. (iv) In institutions like workplaces and higher education, whites adopt hiring and admission standards that favor their own. I conclude that racial inequality might now be locked in place, unless policymakers immediately take drastic steps to dismantle these dynamic feedback loops, in which early unfair advantage becomes ongoing unfair advantage. In this talk, I will focus on the way in which empirical research helps us to understand the relationship between race and these four kinds of networks, which structure the dynamics of how people interact with each other.