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The Perils of Progress: How Institutions Manage Racial Inequality in the Neoliberal Era

Tue, August 9, 8:00 to 9:30am, LACC, Floor: Level 1, 153B


What explains growing neoliberal sentiment in Black communities? In this study, I consider one possible source: the institutional embrace of racial progress narratives. Using an 18-month ethnographic case study of Inglewood, CA, I consider how processes of racial inequality get legitimized and replicated by looking at the stories institutions tell Black workers about the labor market. By looking at these institutional discourses, I unpack how notions of racial progress withstand contradictory evidence and how ideas of racial progress impact marginalized people. I find that institutions tell two progress-framed stories about opportunity for Black job seekers: 1) College for All, and 2) Land of Plenty. These stories promote individualistic analyses of structural inequalities and may exacerbate inequality by harming Black workers' capacity to navigate an already discriminatory labor market.