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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.
“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
“Required reading . . . Kennedy knows where the nerve endings are in discussing the complexities of race in America . . . Admirably balanced and provocative.” —Publishers Weekly
“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.” —Kirkus Reviews
“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.” —Booklist