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The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracyby Lani Guinier
Synopses & Reviews
Like the canary's distress, which alerted miners to poison in the air, issues of race point to conditions in American society that endanger us all. In this pioneering new book, Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres warn us that we ignore race at our peril, and propose a dramatic, hopeful shift in the way we think about race and put it to political use.
Ignoring racial differences--color blindness--has failed, they argue. Race and power intertwine at every level of social interaction, from classrooms to courtrooms to congressional districts. Only cross-racial coalitions can expose these embedded hierarchies of privilege and--through innovative power-sharing and democratic engagement--demolish them. The authors call this concept of enlisting race to resist power political race. The Miner's Canary tells many illuminating stories of political race in action--among black workers in a North Carolina pork plant, among Hispanic organizers in a Chicago mayoral race, among privileged private school students in Boston, among a coalition of education reformers in Texas. Seamlessly weaving narrative with theory, Guinier and Torres reveal the implications of political race for affirmative action, racial profiling, the war on drugs, livable wages, the education budget, voting reform, and many other current debates.
The aim of political race is not just to remedy racial injustices. It is to empower people of all races to struggle together, at the grassroots level, to improve the life chances of everyone who has been raced black, regardless of skin color. In a book that is ultimately both aspirational and inspirational, Guinier and Torres envision a recommitment to social justice that promises notonly to revitalize the civil rights movement in America but to transform democracy.
Like the canaries that alerted miners to a poisonous atmosphere, issues of race point to underlying problems in society that ultimately affect everyone, not just minorities. Addressing these issues is essential. Ignoring racial differences--race blindness--has failed. Focusing on individual achievement has diverted us from tackling pervasive inequalities. Now, in a powerful and challenging book, Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres propose a radical new way to confront race in the twenty-first century.
Given the complex relationship between race and power in America, engaging race means engaging standard winner-take-all hierarchies of power as well. Terming their concept "political race," Guinier and Torres call for the building of grass-roots, cross-racial coalitions to remake those structures of power by fostering public participation in politics and reforming the process of democracy. Their illuminating and moving stories of political race in action include the coalition of Hispanic and black leaders who devised the Texas Ten Percent Plan to establish equitable state college admissions criteria, and the struggle of black workers in North Carolina for fair working conditions that drew on the strength and won the support of the entire local community.
The aim of political race is not merely to remedy racial injustices, but to create truly participatory democracy, where people of all races feel empowered to effect changes that will improve conditions for everyone. In a book that is ultimately not only aspirational but inspirational, Guinier and Torres envision a social justice movement that could transform the nature of democracy in America.
About the Author
Lani Guinier is Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.Gerald Torres is H.O. Head Centennial Professor in Real Property Law, University of Texas Law School.
Table of Contents
1. Political Race and Magical Realism
2. A Critique of Colorblindness
3. Race as a Political Space
4. Rethinking Conventions of Zero-Sum Power
5. Enlisting Race to Resist Hierarchy
6. The Problem Democracy Is Supposed to Solve
7. Whiteness of a Different Color?
8. Watching the Canary
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