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Beyond Tokenism: The Making of Racially Diverse Feminist Organizations

Ellen K. Scott
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/sp.2005.52.2.232 232-254 First published online: 1 May 2005


In the past 30 years, many white-dominated feminist organizations have struggled to achieve the goal of racial diversity. Research tells us that most have failed. We know much from the literature about the conflicts over race, class, and sexuality in feminist organizations, but little about whether it is possible to succeed in creating racially diverse organizations, and if so, how. In this article, I use qualitative data collected in the early 1990s to examine the process through which a battered women's shelter and a rape crisis center became racially diverse. Their stories elucidate the relationship between sustained ideological commitment, and structural opportunities and means that enabled feminists in two organizations to end long histories of white domination and to begin a new era of power and control in the hands of a racially diverse group of women. Because racial diversity has been a central yet often unmet goal within the feminist movement, it is important to understand the conditions of these anomalous successes.

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