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Interest Convergence as Dynamic: Interest Convergence Constriction and Expansion Within the Affirmative Action Context

Mon, April 20, 4:05 to 5:35pm, Virtual Room


While affirmative action was born out of agitation and challenge to injustice (Rogers, 2012; Zamani-Gallaher, O’Neil Green, Brown, & Stovall, 2009), it fell short of being “racism conscious” by design; and arguably, would not have been permitted as such within the legal paradigm (Bell, 1980). It did not directly challenge institutional racism and selective admissions processes, which themselves rely on problematic notions of meritocracy that advantage those with accumulated privilege (Guinier, 2003). From an interest convergence perspective, affirmative action was never a revolutionary policy that could bring about racial justice in higher education; rather, it carried the promise of incremental progress and momentary racial relief, one that would be depleted as soon as it posed a threat to the superior status of (mostly middle and upper class) whites.

Within a decade, the policy debate on affirmative action moved toward a more conservative orientation and the previously observed period of interest convergence began to close (or constrict). The dismantling of affirmative action policies through the Courts, suggest a turn toward colorblindness and white backlash politics in the interpretations and rulings of the Court on affirmative action cases (Author, Garces, & Park 2018). Using examples this paper illustrates that when there is interest convergence constriction in the legal paradigm, there is a greater need for interest convergence expansion rooted in consciousness raising and movement from those working from outside of the legal paradigm including grassroots organizations, educational researchers, and critical race legal theorists. When movement and consciousness raising leads to interest convergence expansion, policies that envision racial justice can be created within the legal system.