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Color Conscious Hardcover – September 17, 1996

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691026610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691026619
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,275,923 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Appiah, a Harvard philosophy professor, and Gutmann, dean of the faculty at Princeton, add an academic gloss to two issues already much debated today: the legitimacy of the notion of "race" and whether color-blind policies can further justice in America. Appiah's sometimes ponderous philosophical excursion reminds us that the notion of race fails as a biological construct (despite contemporary efforts like The Bell Curve to prove otherwise), but he does acknowledge that race shapes social identity in America. But because America's racial groups do not necessarily share a single culture, Appiah protests, as others have, that there should not be one way to be "black" and hopes for the possibility of multiple identities and allegiances. Gutmann's essay returns us to the here and now, calling for color consciousness, which acknowledges the effects of race without assuming genetic determinism. She argues that "fairness" comes closer to justice than color-blindness, and that color-conscious policies?rather than class-conscious ones?can address the effects of race. Gutmann makes a distinction between "affirmative action" and more regrettable "preferential treatment" that may be disputed; she does acknowledge that color-consciousness today aims to achieve a future color-blind society.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Winner of the 1997 Ralph J. Bunche Award, American Political Science Association
Named an Outstanding Book by the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America for 1998
Winner of the 1997 Book Award of the North American Society for Social Philosophy

"Gutmann's essay shines with a brilliance of analysis worthy of widespread attention."--James O. Freedman, Boston Globe

"Despite tremendous ongoing discussion of racial issues in this country, American opinions about race remain contentious and nowhere near a national consensus. . .Each co-author devotes one-half of the book to his or her efforts to bring insight and illumination to what is an often gloomy conversation."--Washington Post Book World

Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a terrific book. In clear and persuasive terms, Appiah begins the book by explaining how "race" is a fiction, but "racism" is a fact. This seeming paradox presents the difficult challenge that Gutmann then addresses in the second half of the book. On one hand, she recognizes that social justice seems to require that we not define people in terms of their so-called "race." On the other hand, she also shows how social justice demands that we eradicate racism, especially insofar as it affects people's civic life. This leads to the central problem of the book: If we don't take account of people's race, how can we respond to the social injustices stemming from racism?
Gutmann makes a powerful case why fairness demands that we be "color conscious," at least for some purposes and for the time-being. She also explains why class-consciousness cannot resolve the problems stemming from racism, nor can proportional representation based on race.
These conclusions may raise the hackles of those who believe that our country should be color-blind, but the arguments that lead there are carefully constructed, logical, and in the end, largely persuasive. Moreover, they are chock-full of concrete examples that drive home the theoretical points. Whether she is talking about the attributes of a successful program in affirmative action at AT&T or data on S.A.T. scores analyzed by both race and class, Gutmann makes a powerful case from which even honest critics will have much to learn.
Both Appiah's and Gutmann's arguments are nuanced, theoretically sophistocated, and informative. Moreover, they are a pleasure to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Haley D on January 11, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I found this book to be a very interesting read for someone who has done a fair about of research about race and critical race theory. I thought Appiah's section could have been a lot shorter, as he focuses on minute details about the thoughts on race of a couple historical figures, including Thomas Jefferson. I personally found it interesting, but most of what he wrote was not necessary for his conclusion (that "race" is a social construction). That argument could be made in 10 pages, but he made it 100. I particularly enjoyed reading the discussions about biology and genetics in both sections. Gutmann offers unique and persuasive arguments in support of a variety of controversial color-conscious issues.

I think some of the other reviewers are missing the point of Appiah and Gutmann's assertions that race is not a biological category, but one that has been socially constructed. They obviously acknowledge that people have superficial genetic differences that result in a variety of skin colors and morphological features. They also acknowledge that people who have descended from the same place have more similar genes. We can talk about genetic differences between populations, but 'race' is such a broad category that encompasses so many people from different populations that there is actually more genetic differences within 'races' than between them. They advocate using 'color' instead of race in order to avoid reifying 'race' as a legitimate descriptive category. Thus, they can support government policies targeted at black people or Native Americans without engaging in contradiction. They both agree that the overall goal would be a color-blind society in which color doesn't matter and 'races' no longer exist, but they agree that color-consciousness is currently necessary because our social institutions embue color with meaning and discriminate against non-whites.

I would recommend this book, but I would suggest skimming through Appiah's section.
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Kwame Anthony Appiah (born 1955) is a Ghanaian philosopher, cultural theorist, and novelist who is currently Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. He is also author of books such as In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. Amy Gutmann (born 1949) is the 8th President of the University of Pennsylvania and Professor of Political Science, Communications, and Philosophy. She taught at Princeton University from 1976 to 2004 and served as its Provost.

In this 1996 book, Appiah writes a section on "Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections," and Gutmann writes a section on "Responding to Racial Injustice"; Appiah then contributes an Epilogue.

Here are some quotations from the book:

"This is because, as we shall see, the arguments against the use of 'race' as a scientific term suggest that most ordinary ways of thinking about races are incoherent." (Pg. 42)
"It follows that on an ideational view, there are no biological races, either: not, in this case, because nothing fits the loose criteria but because too many things do." (Pg. 72)
"I have insisted that African-Americans do not have a single culture, in the sense of shared language, values, practices, and meanings. But many people who think of races as groups defined by shared cultures, conceive that sharing in a different way... Jazz belongs to a black person who knows nothing about it more fully than it does to a white jazzman." (Pg. 90)
"African-American identity, as I have argued, is centrally shaped by American society and institutions: it cannot be seen as constructed solely within African-American communities. African-American culture, if this means shared beliefs, values, practices, does not exist: what exists are African-American cultures..." (Pg. 95)
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