Cover image for The miner's canary : enlisting race, resisting power, transforming democracy
The miner's canary : enlisting race, resisting power, transforming democracy
Guinier, Lani.
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
392 pages ; 24 cm
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E184.A1 G94 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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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. In this work, Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres propose a way to confront race in the 21st century.

Author Notes

Gerald Torres is H. O. Head Centennial Professor in Real Property Law, University of Texas Law School.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"To my friends, I look like a black boy. To white people I don't know, I look like a wanna-be punk. To the cops I look like a criminal," explains Lani Guinier's 14-year-old biracial son. Mixing myriad personal examples with hard data and analysis of biased news reports, Guinier and Torres cogently and forcefully argue that "color-blind" solutions are not "attaining racial justice and ensuring a healthy democratic process." Arguing for a multifaceted conception of "biological race, political race, historical race, cultural race," their purpose here is to find terms for discussing "the lived experience of race in America" and for moving toward a society that values (rather than just tolerates) difference. Moving through a wealth of complicated, intellectual and often abstract material, Guinier and Torres pick out the concrete and useful bits: Michel Foucault's explications of power as an ideology are explained via a contentious and racially divided union drive at K mart; the old joke about the rabbi and the bishop of Verona is used to illustrate the long-fought-over issue of race-conscious redistricting an issue that got Guinier labeled "the quota queen" in 1993 via her book The Tyranny of the Majority. Guinier, a professor at Harvard Law School, and Torres, professor at the University of Texas Law School, also grapple intelligently and with passionate wit with such explosive topics as racial profiling and the elusiveness of racial identification and identity (i.e., "white Hispanics"), making this one of the most provocative and challenging books on race produced in years. (Feb. 8) Forecast: While the tone and argumentation here are firmly academic compared with Guinier's other titles, this book will be widely reviewed on the basis of her reputation, and will be brandished by pundits. And even Beltway outsiders will remember the controversy when Clinton nominated her to be an assistant attorney general. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

How can a book that advocates for something as ethereal-sounding as the "magical realism of political race" amount to a powerfully reasoned and concretely grounded call for the proliferation of multiracial coalitions in challenges to inequality and exclusion in American society? Law professors Guinier (Harvard Univ.) and Torres (Univ. of Texas) have managed to do so in their gracefully written book, which is both an analysis of the distinctive contours of the post-Civil Rights Era's racial fault lines and a manifesto for a politics that is decidedly color conscious. Indeed, the purpose of the book is to challenge not simply the calls for colorblindness on the part of conservatives, but more significantly, similar calls on the part of political leftists. Questionable is the authors' claim that the US lacks a discourse linking class to fate, while presumably having one that links race to fate. If the authors had paid greater attention to the salience of class, they might have discovered that the future of the Left depends on its ability to bring into fruitful dialogue the dynamics of race and class. That said, this reviewer fully agrees that race functions as the "miner's canary" in any effort to assess the health and vitality of American democracy. General readers and above. P. Kivisto Augustana College (IL)

Table of Contents

Prologuep. 1
1 Political Race and Magical Realismp. 11
2 A Critique of Colorblindnessp. 32
3 Race as a Political Spacep. 67
4 Rethinking Conventions of Zero-Sum Powerp. 108
5 Enlisting Race to Resist Hierarchyp. 131
6 The Problem Democracy Is Supposed to Solvep. 168
7 Whiteness of a Different Color?p. 223
8 Watching the Canaryp. 254
Notesp. 305
Acknowledgmentsp. 375
Indexp. 381