A Challenge to Critical Understandings of Race



In this article, I demonstrate fundamental weaknesses in the ability of critical understandings of race to produce reliable knowledge of how social actors use social comparisons as a way to align self with ingroup. I trace these weaknesses to two sources: The first is relying on social status as an explanation for race-based assessments, ingroup motivations, and social constructions of otherness. This is opposed to leaning on assessments grounded in social psychological research that links properties of human cognition to the development and maintenance of social identities. The second weakness is an open support for activist research that is often situated in radical multiculturalism. Because critical race scholars openly side with racial minorities’ interests, they tend to establish incomplete assessments of social behaviors and social constructs linked to racial identities in order to maintain their stated political allegiances. To demonstrate these and other weaknesses, I draw upon the theoretical insights of social identity theory which is used to reassess Bell and Hartmann's (2007) critical race analysis of diversity dialogue in American society.