The Urban Review

, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 529–550 | Cite as

“My Eyes Were Opened to the Lack of Diversity in Our Best Schools”: Re-Conceptualizing Competitive School Choice Policy as a Racial Formation

  • Sophia Rodriguez


This article documents minority youth sense-making around the concept of diversity and the founding of a youth activist group that seeks spaces for policy thinking and protesting against racial inequalities in selective enrollment schools. Utilizing the sociological theory of racial formation and the concept of racial projects (Omi and Winant in Racial formation in the United States, 3rd edn, Routledge, New York, 2014), this article draws on data from a critical ethnography. The author argues that youth activists offer a critical perspective for researchers and policy-makers in the face of neoliberal school choice policy. Findings reveal that youth activists understand a lack of diversity as racial imbalance in high status schools, and that they expose structural inequalities that are embedded in policy structures and processes such as selective enrollment high schools. Implications are discussed to show how re-conceptualizing policy as a racial formation can bring structural and institutional racist practices into view in hopes of transforming district policies to offer access to high quality schools for all students.


Youth activism School choice Selective enrollment schools Diversity Racial projects 



The author wishes to thank the youth in this study for their candid reflections regarding the sensitive issues, especially Charlie and Amelia. Their efforts were powerful during a difficult time in the community and the continued struggle against racial inequity. The author also wishes to thank Joy Howard and Keonya Booker for their constructive and thoughtful feedback on early drafts of this manuscript. The author also wishes to thank Ian O’Byrne and Kyra Koehler for their assistance in the final stages of preparation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Educational Leadership and Cultural FoundationsUniversity of North Carolina GreensboroGreensboroUSA

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