A Critical Diversity Framework at the Intersection of Higher Education and Race Studies: An Overdue Response to Shifting Contexts of Colorblind Racism and White Innocence

Principal Investigator: Uma Jayakumar | Graduate School of Education | University of California, Riverside


Today in the United States, state sanctioned police violence and anti-blackness, a political stage informed by racial bigotry, and a legal system increasingly invested in protecting white innocence shape a shifting context for racial justice research and advocacy in higher education. Social Scientists, including Jayakumar, have produced diversity research and developed amicus briefs, contributing to successfully upholding race-conscious college admissions in a recent Supreme Court decision (Fisher v UT Austin). Nonetheless, it is clear from increasing restrictions on the practical use of affirmative action that new strategies and frameworks are needed to more effectively counter the mechanisms that produce inequities in college access and inclusion (Jayakumar & Adamian, 2015). Over the years the educational benefits of diversity rationale for improving interracial dynamics in postsecondary education has gone from being highly contested to being co-opted into dominant legal narratives and watered-down campus diversity discourses (Ahmed, 2012; Berrey, 2015; Chang, Chang, & Ledesma, 2005; Warikoo, 2016). Indeed, diversity frameworks are not equipped to address the present day challenges we face, including the prevalence of colorblind perspectives among white college students who see racism as a problem of the past (Baez, 2004; Cabrera, Watson, & Franklin, 2016; Forman & Lewis, 2015; Jayakumar, 2015). In particular, there is an urgent need to confront how colorblindess, notions of white innocence, fragility, and 'safety,' provide comfort to white students, at the expense of addressing racism and creating more inclusive and humanizing campus environments for the benefit of all students. With this in mind, the Spencer Midcareer Grant will support Jayakumar in deepening her theoretical understanding and application of colorblind ideology, racism, and whiteness as they intersect with racial inequities and race relations in higher education. With guidance from three distinguished senior scholar mentors— Zeus Leonardo, Tyrone Forman, and Tabbye Chavous— Jayakumar will engage in a program of study toward advancing research advocacy and thoughtful interventions for advancing racial inclusion in postsecondary institutions within the contemporary context of co-opted diversity discourses and an increasingly colorblind policy terrain.,

Grant Type:

Midcareer Grant

Grant Amount:




Topic / Subject:

Race/Ethnicity, Diversity, Higher Education

Methods / Approach:

Critical theory

Disciplinary Perspective: