Throughout the civil rights era, strong voices have argued that policy interventions should focus on class or socioeconomic status, not race. At times, this position-taking has seemed merely tactical, opportunistic, or in bad faith. Many who have opposed race-based civil rights interventions on this basis have not turned around to support robust efforts to reduce class-based or socioeconomic inequality. That sort of opportunism is interesting and important for understanding policy debates in civil rights, but it is not my focus here. I am more interested here in the people who clearly mean it. For example, President Lyndon Baines Johnson—who can hardly be accused of failing to support robust race-based or class-based interventions—advised Dr. Martin Luther King after Congress passed the Voting Rights Act that the race-neutral, class-based Great Society programs had to be counted on to eliminate race inequality from that point forward.
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Publication Information & Recommended Citation
Bagenstos, Samuel R. "On Class-Not-Race." In A Nation of Widening Opportunities? The Civil Rights Act at Fifty, edited by S. R. Bagenstos and E. D. Katz. Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan Publishing, 2015.