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Administrative burdens allow a form of hidden politics to shape people’s experience of the state. But what do those politics hide? In this paper we seek to partly answer this question by developing the concept of racialized burdens. Racialized burdens are the experience of learning, compliance and psychological costs, which serve as tools to reinforce racial inequality; they are the handmaidens of the racialized state. To develop this concept, we examine the role of administrative burdens in the US state from the theoretical perspective of racialized organizations. This framework puts the focus on the effects of organizations on individuals, rather than using individual agency – of the client, or bureaucrat – as the starting point for analysis. Using examples from attempts to access citizenship rights – via immigration, voting and the social safety net – we show how burdens have historically been used to normalize and facilitate racially disparate outcomes from public organizations that promise fair and equal treatment.