ellen berrey and the politics of affirmative action
The most recent DuBois Review has a really interesting article about how social movements push for legal change and how that fights changes the field of advocacy groups. Ellen Berrey’s “Making a Civil Rights Claim for Affirmative Action” is a historical review of how one University of Michigan student group fought for affirmative action and how that changed the other organizations at Michigan that were involved in racial student politics:
The politics of affirmative action are currently structured as a litigious conflict among elites taking polarized stances. Opponents call for colorblindness, and defenders champion diversity. How can marginalized activists subvert the dominant terms of legal debate? To what extent can they establish their legitimacy? This paper advances legal mobilization theory by analytically foregrounding the field of contention and the relational production of meaning among social movement organizations. The case for study is two landmark United States Supreme Court cases that contested the University of Michigan’s race-conscious admissions policies. Using ethnographic data, the paper analyzes BAMN, an activist organization, and its reception by other affirmative action supporters. BAMN had a marginalized allied-outsider status in the legal cases, as it made a radical civil rights claim for a moderate, elite-supported policy: that affirmative action corrects systemic racial discrimination. BAMN activists pursued their agenda by passionately defending and, at once, critiquing the university’s policies. However, the organization’s militancy remained a liability among university leaders, who prioritized the consistency of their diversity claims. The analysis forwards a scholarly understanding of the legacy of race-conscious policies.
Great addition to the literature on student mobilization.