Synopses & Reviews
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.
"As the titles of this and his previous books (among them, The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency) suggest, Harvard law professor Kennedy knows where the nerve endings are in discussing the complexities of race in America. While clearly convinced that 'the net benefits generated by affirmative action justify its continued existence,' his probe of those ganglia is dexterous. 'The stark patterns of racial disparity... attend every index of well-being and development in American society,' Kennedy writes, 'including educational attainment' (his focus in this book is on higher education). After reviewing the history of affirmative action, concluding that 'ambivalence triumphant' best describes its current status, Kennedy assesses the arguments, pro (reparations, integration) and con (the associated stigma). Following a consideration of the 'apparent attractions of color blindness' and its weaknesses, Kennedy turns to the Supreme Court's record one he finds 'marked by ambivalence, confusion, evasiveness, obfuscation, and inconsistency' in cases involving the state universities of California, Michigan, and Texas. Kennedy's admirably balanced argument in favor of affirmative action (though the author has some reservations) is provocative and his style is accessible. When the Supreme Court decision on Fisher v. University of Texas is handed down, Kennedy's latest will be required reading. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
By the author of the New York Times best seller Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word and, more recently, The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency ("Provocative and richly insightful." —Brent Staples, The New York Times Book Review; "Excellent."—David Remnick, The New Yorker)
The definitive reckoning with one of the most explosively contentious and sharply divisive issues in American society, a book extraordinary for its cool reason and genuine fairness—at once a recollection of the little-known history of affirmative action and an anatomy of its pros and cons.
About the Author
Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale. He attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and is a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.