Affirmative Action Booklist

Affirmative Action Booklist

Barry E. Lee and Amy Wood

Vol. 20, No. 1, 1998 pp. 31-33

Affirmative Action Booklist

Here is a partial annotated list of books on affirmative action, pro and con, published since 1996, compiled by Barry E. Lee and Amy Wood.

Bacchi, Carol Lee. The Politics of Affirmative Action: “Women,” Equality and Category Politics. Sage Publishers, 1996.

Focuses on the theoretical and conceptual difficulties between affirmative action policies and recent feminist theory, namely that while feminists are eschewing essentialist notions that conceptualize women as inherently a common group with common concerns and needs, affirmative action, as a practice (which these same feminists support), relies on this very conception of women as a group. Bacchi also provides close studies of how this theory plays out in affirmative action practices in six countries: United States, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands (chosen as the “leaders” in affirmative action policy).

Bergmann, Barbara. In Defense of Affirmative Action. Basic Books, 1996.

Bergmann, an economist at American University, has written this defense of affirmative action for the general reader. Citing numerous studies that show the continued prevalence of both prejudice and inequality in the workplace, Bergmann asserts that affirmative action is necessary in order to ensure racial fairness and equal opportunity. She also argues for the social and economic benefits of promoting diversity in the workplace and in education. (Reviewed by Ellen Spears in Southern Changes, Summer ’96)

Boston, Thomas. Affirmative Action and Black Entrepreneurship. Routledge Press, due out September 1998.

This focused study uses the example of Atlanta to argue for affirmative action as an important economic development tool for urban centers. Boston, an economics professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Commerce Department consultant in Clinton’s review of federal affirmative action programs, strongly believes that such programs offer “tremendous economic value” [Atlanta Constitution, October 6, 1997].

Browne-Miller, Angela. Shameful Admissions: The Losing Battle to Serve Everyone in Our Universities. Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996.

Brown-Miller draws upon hundreds of interviews and questionnaires from college students and their parents, faculty members, and administrators to assess the impact of the quest for diversity upon the quality of higher education. The main thesis is that the quality of higher education is threatened by what may be “the failure-or the fatal myopia-of the naïve, or at least incomplete, dream of equality” (xvii). As a result of this potential threat, Brown-Miller claims that the future of the nation is imperiled as a debate rages over issues of access, thereby neglecting the most important education issue-the deterioration of academic standards. Shameful Admissions does not address gender in its lament of falling standards.

Cose, Ellis. Color-Blind: Seeing Beyond Race in a Race-Obsessed World. Harper Collins, 1997.

Cose, a contributing editor for Newsweek, draws upon the work of educators, lawyers, scientists, and other scholars to investigate the meanings and problems surrounding race in this country. He looks at what it would mean to live in a “color-blind” society, and offers suggestions on how we could get there. In the process, he compares our culture’s ideas about race to those in South America and South Africa. He views affirmative action as flawed and inadequate, but nevertheless necessary. (See Shirley Jackson’s review, page 29.)

Curry, George. The Affirmative Action Debate. Addison-Wesley, 1996.

A compilation of articles, speeches, and other texts reflecting a wide range of opinions on affirmative action. The book includes historical material and addresses broader issues relating to diversity and race relations, as well as covering views on affirmative action in the workplace, education, public contracting, and in federal politics. Contributers include: Lyndon Johnson, Cornel West, Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton, Deval Patrick, Kweisi Mfume, Louis Harris, and Wade Henderson.

Delgado, Richard. The Coming Race War?: and other Apocalyptic Tales of America after Affirmative Action and Welfare. NYU Press, 1996.

Delgado challenges “white” conventions of legal argument and theoretical exposition through what he calls, “legal storytelling” or “narrative jurisprudence.” He lays out his radical race theories through six fictionalized conversations between two African-American legal scholars, Rodrigo and the Professor. These stories dissect what he calls “false empathy” on the part of white liberals and offers tactics white liberals should use to subvert white hegemony. Concerning affirmative action, Delgado, through the mouthpiece of Rodrigo, critiques the principle of merit as white people’s affirmative action which ultimately advances racism and white privilege.

Drake, Willie Avon and Robert D. Holsworth. Affirmative Action and the Stalled Quest for Black Progress. University Of Illinois Press, 1996.

The authors uses Richmond v. Croson as a case study in order to “illuminate the context in which an historically important affirmative action policy emerged, investigate its actual operation and consider alternative actions that might have been pursued.” They seek to place affirmative action policies and set-aside programs into historical context, as well as discuss the wider implications for black progress.

Eastland, Terry. Ending Affirmative Action: The Case for Colorblind Justice. Basic Books, 1996.

Written in counterpoint to Bergmann’s In Defense of Affirmative Action, Eastman argues against affirmative action on three principles. One, affirmative action conflicts with the ideals of a color-blind society and is in fact “reverse discrimination.” Secondly, affirmative action stigmatizes minorities, and therefore, prevents them from achieving true equality, and even more so, engenders racial strife and bigotry. Thirdly, he claims affirmative action was intended as a temporary fix to facilitate the goals of equal opportunity and it has outserved its purpose.

Edley, Christopher. Not all Black and White: Affirmative Action, Race and American Values. Hill & Wang, 1996.

Edley, who served as Special Counsel to President Clinton on affirmative action and co-authored a 1995 Affirmative Action Review for the President, uses this book not only to provide context and overview for his work with Clinton, but also to discuss arguments and issues not raised in the Review. He argues that affirmative action has succeeded and why it needs to continue. Of particular interest is the careful distinction he makes between anti-discrimination practices and affirmative action. Anti-discrimination laws, he feels, are necessary but not sufficient for the attainment of a “color-blind” society, which will not be realized without affirmative action.

Fair, Bryan. Notes of a Racial Caste Baby: Color Blindness and the End of Affirmative Action. NYU Press, 1997.

Through legal and historical reasoning and through a narrative of his own life, law professor Bryan Fair presents an impassioned defense of affirmative action. He posits the “significance of race and racial caste” in his own life as an argument for remedial affirmative action and as evidence for its benefits. At the same time, he offers historical evidence for the constitutionality of affirmative action.

Hochschild, Jennifer L.Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation. Princeton University, 1996

A Princeton University political scientist, Hochschild writes passionately about the growing disconnection between the American dream of equal access to the fruits of citizenship for all Americans and its stark reality in poor and African-American communities. The book rests on two premises. First of all, Americans, in general, endorse the common ideology of a reasonable chance to succeed without artificial barriers. Secondly, the American dream faces a severe challenge which is inextricably bound to race and class. Hochschild contends that the challenges to this ideology threaten to implode it unless Americans decide that they sincerely intend to make the dream a reality.

Kahlenberg, Richard. The Remedy: Class, Race and Affirmative Action. Basicbooks, 1996.

Kahlenberg presents the controversial argument that affirmative action should be deployed to compensate for class-based inequalities, rather than race. He contends that the original intent of affirmative action was to compensate for the inequalities in opportunity, status, and economics that blacks have faced because of discrimination, and that leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon B. Johnson recognized that these inequalities were more about class than race, inequalities that poor whites suffer from as well. Kahlenberg feels affirmative action veered from its original course when it began to focus more on achieving racial diversity and should be redirected to a class-based focus.

Lawrence, Charles and Mari Matsuda. We Won’t Go Back: Making the Case for Affirmative Action. Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

An excellent study that seeks to place affirmative action within historical and cultural context and argues for it as an affirmation of democracy. The authors define affirmative action as not merely a policy to ensure inclusion of historically disenfranchised groups into already established institutions and systems, but rather, as a movement seeking structural change to challenge and “disestablish” the ideologies and practices of those institutions and systems. The chapters address the broad cultural meanings and implications of affirmative action, the bearing of affirmative action on women, Asian-Americans, and other ethnic minorities, as well as take on the various arguments and rhetoric against affirmative action.

Sadler, A.E., ed. Affirmative Action(At Issue). Greenhaven Press, 1996.

Part of an “opposing viewpoint” series, this book is a compilation of eight excerpted essays on both sides of the affirmative action debate. Contributers include, Jesse Jackson, Richard Kahlenberg, Stephen Carter and Abigail Thernstrom.

Skrentny, John David. The Ironies of Affirmative Action: Politics, Culture, and Justice in America. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996.

Claiming to be neither on the Right nor the Left, Skrentny investigates the historical, sociological and cultural logic behind the debates surrounding affirmative action and race in this country. He seeks to understand how the assumptions and bases behind the beliefs both for and against affirmative action developed in order to provide insight into this very volatile debate. In doing so he uncovers some glaring ironies, including how policies to benefit a marginalized and disempowered group were enacted very quietly by the government in the 1960’s without national debate. Another irony he addresses is that the Right has taken up the language of color-blindness, while the Left has abandoned this language for attentions to race.

Thernstrom, Stephan and Abigail. America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible. Simon & Schuster, 1997.

The Thernstroms attempt to strike a death blow against affirmative action, and dare to compare their armchair study to Gunnar Myrdal’s epic study of American race relations. But unlike Myrdal’s exhaustive use of primary sources, the authors here rely primarily on secondary information to argue that World War II rather than the Civil Rights Movement and the Federal intervention it brought about deserve credit for the progress of the black middle class. They praise the legal precedents of the 1954 Brown decision, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but decry all federal efforts to specifically help African Americans as complete failures which halted racial progress already afoot. America in Black and White ignores the present manifestation of racism, claiming that white racists are too few to be a real influence. Rather than bringing new substance to the debate on race relations, the book, as Nicholas Lehmann stated in his review in the September 7, 1997, edition of , “reads more like an argument against affirmative action than the second coming of Myrdal.”

Tomasson, Richard, Faye Crosby, and Sharon Herzberger. Affirmative Action: The Pros And Cons of Policy and Practice. American University Press, 1996.

In the first half of the book, authors Crosby and Herzberger present arguments for affirmative action, while in the second, Tomasson argues against affirmative action. Crosby and Herzberger refute anti-affirmative action rhetoric point by point, by clarifying the social and historical misconceptions of the policy, and by making use of studies which he believes prove that discrimination does exist. Tomasson bases his argument on the principles of a color-blind society.

Weiss, Robert. “We Want Jobs”: A History of Affirmative Action. Garland Publishers, 1997.

A comprehensive academic history of affirmative action, this text focuses on jobs and the impact of affirmative action on labor in the U.S. Weiss details the political and economic trajectory of affirmative action from the 1940’s to the 1990’s, through which civil rights groups passed from demands that the federal government secure African American freedom to demands that the government implement programs to ensure economic opportunity. He pays attention to broad definitions of affirmative action, and the ways it has been used to ensure opportunity for other minority groups.

Zelnick, Bob. . Regnery Publishers, 1996.

Zelnick, an ABC news correspondent, offers an argument against affirmative action, based on the premise that it is “reverse discrimination.” His chapters look at merit testing, university admissions, and California’s “Civil Rights” Initiative (Proposition 209).

Barry E. Lee, a Ph.D. student in history at Georgia State University, is a member of the communications team at the Southern Regional Council (SRC). Amy Wood researched affirmative action while an intern at SRC during fall semester 1997.