Color Codes

by Adolph Reed Jr.

Whitewashing Race:

The Myth of a Color-Blind Society

By Michael K. Brown, Martin Carnoy, Elliott Currie,

Troy Duster, David B. Oppenheimer,

Marjorie M. Shultz, and David Wellman

University of California Press, 2003

349 pp $27.50

Unfortunately, this is a very useful book. The authors have meticulously developed a case against the most respectable, and therefore most insidious, arguments that currently attempt to justify manifest racial inequalities. It should not be necessary to exert such intellectual labor to counter the same kinds of sophistries that have been around since Supreme Court Justice Joseph Bradley’s 1883 opinion overturning the 1875 Civil Rights Act. Recalling that Justice Bradley contended then that blacks no longer needed to be “special favorite of the laws” should give pause to those who maintain that positive anti-discrimination initiatives give blacks unfair advantage. Alas! That view has gathered steam during the last two decades, and the authors of Whitewashing Race provide an important public service in countering it. They challenge what they describe as an emerging “racial realism,” which claims that, as a result of the legislative victories of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, racism has been largely overcome as a significant determinant of black Americans’ life chances. According to this view, inequalities in employment, wealth and income, education, or arrest and incarceration have more to do with blacks’ own limitations than with discrimination or any systemic injustice.

Source: Dissent Magazine

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