The Radical-Incremental Change Debate, Racial Justice, and the Political Economy of Teachers’ Choice

Radical or incremental change? In this profound moment of racial reckoning, that is the fundamental question that divides those within the growing movement for racial justice. It is also a question at the crux of several essays in this important trans-journal symposium.

Consider demands to “Defund The Police.” Should proponents of this slogan settle for nothing less than the abolition of police departments, or should they be satisfied with the shifting of resources from police departments to Black communities? Or take recent calls to increase legal accountability for police wrongdoing. Should reformers aim for deep, structural changes, or more incremental reforms such as the modification of the qualified immunity doctrine? These debates extend beyond the police context, too. For instance, when institutions of higher education consider their role in racial inequality, should they dismantle long-held norms—such as the belief that the top students belong at the top schools—or is it sufficient to embrace diversity in more limited ways?

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