This book kind of meanders around from topic to topic, rather than being focused on a specific thesis. Tate wanders around from theoretical justifications for electing more Black legislators to objective descriptions of what minority legislators do to poll data. I didn't feel like Tate really tied one part of the book to another very effectively, nor did I feel like her use of theory and history said anything all that interesting.
Having said that, I do think her use of poll data is worth reading. She discusses a survey of Black voters, and compares Black voters living in districts represented by a Black congressperson to those represented by Republicans and White Democrats. Much to my surprise, she finds some significant differences: Black voters in Black-represented districts are somewhat more likely to have heard of their federal legislator, and much more supportive of him or her, than Black voters living in White-dominated congressional districts. They are also slightly more interested in politics generally, though the differences may not be statistically significant. This data certainly makes a persuasive (though by no means irrefutable) case for race-conscious districting.
On balance, this book reads like a really good scholarly article (on the poll data) that was stretched into a so-so book.
on February 2, 2008
In the American political system it is critical that all groups are represented and that within each district constituents feel that their voices are heard. Katherine Tate addresses the issues that face African Americans in their fight for representation. Tate contributes greatly to the traditional American politics question, what is representation, while adding to the debate over the worth of majority-minority districts. Black Faces in the Mirror is a meaningful addition to preexisting literature on African American congressional representation yet, it is distinguished from other studies, because not only does Tate address the debate over race and representation but she does so through an empirical analysis.
I am a currently a college student and I have read this book several times. Black Faces in The Mirror is definitely a must read for those that would like to know more about minority representation, the majority-minority redistricting debate, the role of representatives in the U.S. Congress, the history of African-Americans in Congress, and much more!