To imagine and pursue racial justice

Matthew Desmond, Mustafa Emirbayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


At the conclusion of many courses on race and racism, students, having learned, some for the first time, about the existence, origins, and complex dimensions of racial domination in America, are left pondering their next steps. 'What is to be done?' many ask. 'And what, exactly, is it that we want?' Important as they are, these questions too often are given insufficient attention, usually addressed at the end of the semester, sometimes only on the final day of class. And students inquiring about the most effective ways to strive toward racial justice are at a loss to find a single comprehensive source that provides them with basic analytical guidance about the goals one should work toward (the ends) or the strategies one should employ to achieve those goals (the means). We believe that students would benefit greatly from such a source, and we attempt to offer one here. To effectively address racial domination, we argue, one must have not only an idea of the means with which to struggle on behalf of a reconstructed racial order, but also an idea of the ends for which one is struggling. Accordingly, in the first major section of this article, we specify three ends: (1) a society where racial domination is addressed intelligently; (2) a society that embraces racial justice in all its arenas; and (3) a society that values and practices multiculturalism - offering a glimpse of what a society without racial domination might look like. In the following section, we specify the means - emphasizing four levels or sites of change having to do with: (1) ourselves; (2) our inner circle; (3) our institutions; and (4) our nation - offering some guidance as to how we each can do our part to bring forth a more racially just society. Although we believe this article will provide guidance for advanced scholars and instructors, we have composed it primarily with a broader audience in mind.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)259-289
Number of pages31
JournalRace Ethnicity and Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


  • multiculturalism
  • race politics
  • racial justice


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