Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law
Pantheon Books, Hardcover, 9780307907370, 293pp.
Publication Date: September 3, 2013
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding Fisher v. University of Texas, For Discrimination is at once the definitive reckoning with one of America’s most explosively contentious and divisive issues and a principled work of advocacy for clearly defined justice.
What precisely is affirmative action, and why is it fiercely championed by some and just as fiercely denounced by others? Does it signify a boon or a stigma? Or is it simply reverse discrimination? What are its benefits and costs to American society? What are the exact indicia determining who should or should not be accorded affirmative action? When should affirmative action end, if it must? Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law School professor and author of such critically acclaimed and provocative books as Race, Crime, and the Law and the national best-seller Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, gives us a concise, gimlet-eyed, and deeply personal conspectus of the policy, refusing to shy away from the myriad complexities of an issue that continues to bedevil American race relations.
With pellucid reasoning, Kennedy accounts for the slipperiness of the term “affirmative action” as it has been appropriated by ideologues of every stripe; delves into the complex and surprising legal history of the policy; coolly analyzes key arguments pro and con advanced by the left and right, including the so-called color-blind, race-neutral challenge; critiques the impact of Supreme Court decisions on higher education; and ponders the future of affirmative action.
Praise for For Discrimination
“Kennedy is one of our most important and perceptive writers on race and the law, and the mere fact that he wrote this book is all the justification necessary for reading it. For Discrimination is a heartfelt and tautly argued defense of affirmative action, a smart, concise refresher of the liberal position that is well worth the general reader’s attention.”
“Refreshingly honest . . . Beginning with its provocative title, For Discrimination is a profoundly honest work on a topic frequently marked by mendacity.”
“Kennedy offers a clear-eyed take on America’s battle over affirmative action and diversity . . . He goes straight at the issue with fearlessness and a certain cheekiness.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Compelling . . . Powerful . . . Rare intellectual honesty and fair-mindedness . . . Kennedy deftly presents the case against affirmative action—and explains why he supports it anyway.”
—Wall Street Journal
“Meticulously argued . . . An illuminating, detailed argument in favor of affirmative action and its application via race-based methods . . . Kennedy vividly portrays Supreme Court decisions as malleable, subject to reinterpretation, and even reversal not only because of the makeup of the court but because of the changing tide of political circumstances and public opinion.”
“Kennedy’s For Discrimination provides supporters of affirmative action with the penetrating, concise, coolheaded arguments for racial justice they’ve been waiting for.”
“Remarkably astute and tough-minded . . . Should be required reading for anyone interested in genuine equal opportunity in the United States.”
“This is an important book. Kennedy, who admits to having benefitted from affirmative action, will force a lot of long-needed conversations with his opinions, conversations for which he includes abundant, solid fodder. This book is about as far as you can get from a casual read, and should be approached with an open mind, general legal knowledge, and a good dictionary. If you can handle that, then go ahead and make For Discrimination yours.”
“Provocative . . . Important . . . For Discrimination offers a thorough analysis of the topic and leaves the reader feeling as though he or she has just left a lawyer’s office having been briefed on the many perspectives on affirmative action within in the United States, and is now ready to testify in court.”
“This is arguably the most clearheaded defense of affirmative action ever written. Kennedy’s incisive analysis includes a compelling critique of a range of arguments by legal experts and social scientists on the pros and cons of affirmative action. In clear prose For Discrimination advances powerful arguments for sensibly defined affirmative action. This thoughtful book is a must-read for all Americans devoted to addressing past and current injustice.”
—William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University
“For Discrimination considers the definition and boundaries of affirmative action and why it is both championed and denounced in society, and is a fine pick for social issues and legal collections alike. It considers its benefits, costs, its impact on different racial groups, and provides a personal review of the policy and its many issues impacting American race relations. The result is a powerful assessment and history of affirmative action processes and perfect for classroom debate and discussion at both the high school and college levels.”
“Required reading . . . Kennedy knows where the nerve endings are in discussing the complexities of race in America . . . Admirably balanced and provocative.”
“Fair and tough-minded . . . Kennedy continues his strong track record of making thorny conversations about race and the law accessible to general readers, discussing complicated issues and court cases in a lucid, forceful fashion.”
“Kennedy addresses one of America’s most contentious issues—affirmative action—on two fronts: the colorblind, race-neutral ideal and the need to address the impact of both past and contemporary racial discrimination . . . A probing and well-considered look at the complexities of race relations and the continuing controversial issues of affirmative action in contemporary America.”
Praise for Randall Kennedy
“Kennedy has long been among the most incisive commentators on race. His books seem to be carved from intellectual granite, yet they have human scale . . . So resonant, so personal.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Kennedy’s commitment to racial justice is plain . . . He frequently throws the cold water of common sense upon issues that are too often cloaked in glib histrionics.”
—John McWhorter, The New Republic