Sociologists of education frequently draw on the cultural capital framework to explore the ways in which educational institutions perpetuate inequality in schools and the larger society. However, these studies adhere to a white centered “class-based master-narrative,” to legitimize and perpetuate the assumption that racial differences are secondary manifestations of class-based structures. The class-based master-narrative elevates a one-dimensional view of inequality as rooted primarily in class-based stratification and downplays the fact that the economic elites who inhabit these dominant social positions are predominantly white. In this essay, I propose a race-conscious framework to challenge the colorblind assumptions and deficit perspectives inherent to the cultural capital framework. The race-conscious model (a) focuses on how racial stratification impacts the cultivation, transmission, and activation of cultural capital on the individual and institutional levels and (b) highlights the harmful impact of the lack of racial literacy that is inherent to the white habitus.

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Copyright © 2020, Wiley Online Publishing. This article first appeared in Sociology Compass 14, no. 7 (July 2020).