Selling Diversity, Promoting Racism: How Universities Pushing a Consumerist Form of Diversity Empowers Oppression

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How does racism persist and even worsen on college campuses amidst pro-diversity university efforts? From interviewing college students and interrogating university materials, this article argues that public universities’ heightened revenue-generating functions inspire them to sell diversity as an attractive quality, divorced from its association with race and social justice. Because diversity has become a strong discourse, its uncritical university marketing turns it into a commodity at the cutting-edge of cultural capitalism: a consumerist diversity. White students eagerly embrace this university-sponsored version, seeing it everywhere and in everyone. This is a highly individualistic, disposable, and inherently positive diversity that enables students an easy authentic experience of celebrating humanity. Issues of inequality clash against this feel-good understanding, enabling diversity loving white students to regard calls for racial justice as unjust anti-humanist racial attacks. Diversity efforts by the profit-minded university therein empower white students’ colorblind and even color conscious racism.

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