Social reproduction and the racial wealth gap: From financial exclusion to ‘racial justice investing’ in the United States

Authors: Emily Rosenman*, Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Economic Geography
Keywords: social reproduction, racial justice, wealth, finance
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 34
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper examines how solutions to racialized wealth disparities in the United States are being marketized under the banner of “racial justice investing.” After giving an overview of the racial justice investing industry, the paper argues that this phenomenon must be understood in terms of how capitalism has profited from the unequal life chances of racialized groups. Drawing from theories of financialization, social reproduction, and racial liberalism, I conceptualize the wealth gap as a racialized divergence in the possibility of sustaining and reproducing life in the United States; contemporary interest in the wealth gap is indicative of the possible limits it now poses to white overaccumulation. To understand how the wealth gap has become the object of finance-led efforts to increase racial justice, I analyze its historical underpinnings and the processes through which racial injustice is collapsed into a singular ‘gap,’ making the goals of various racial justice initiatives exchangeable in the eyes of capital and policy, whether raising the wages of racialized corporate executives or providing a small business loan to a racialized entrepreneur. Ultimately I illustrate how corporate and philanthropic forms of racial justice investing largely sidestep the questions of power and, paradoxically, distribution that animate many contemporary racial justice movements.

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