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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biased but a must-read !
Most interesting and clear presentation even though I happen to disagree with the author. On the whole slightly biased but should make some readers comfortable about positive discrimination.
Published 13 months ago by PILLORGET PHILIPPE

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2.0 out of 5 stars Not much to discover
The advance blurb from William Julius Wilson on the back of my hardcover reads: "This is arguably the most clearheaded defense of affirmative action ever written." I have to assume that Wilson is a personal friend of Kennedy's. This book is anything but "clear headed"; it isn't even really an "argument."

Consider the critical issue of audience. To whom is this...
Published 3 days ago by Murray J Siskind


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2.0 out of 5 stars Not much to discover, January 24, 2015
The advance blurb from William Julius Wilson on the back of my hardcover reads: "This is arguably the most clearheaded defense of affirmative action ever written." I have to assume that Wilson is a personal friend of Kennedy's. This book is anything but "clear headed"; it isn't even really an "argument."

Consider the critical issue of audience. To whom is this book addressed? I would expect a book arguing for affirmative action to address an audience opposed to or suspicious of it. However, the book seems largely written to address left-liberal objections to affirmative action. The chapter titled "The Affirmative Action Policy Debate," considers mostly left-leaning objections to affirmative action. I don't have any public opinion polls in front of me, but I'm willing to bet my left kidney that public opposition to affirmative action doesn't stem from it being insufficiently radical. So why not address the objections held by the general public?

Kennedy's rebuttals to the left-liberal objections he does discuss don't amount to much, in my opinion. They are the kind of small, speculative points that would fit more comfortably in a blog post (or in an Amazon book review) than in a full-fledged book. Consider, for example, his rebuttal to the book MISMATCH, by Richard Sander (which I have not read). Essentially, Sander argues that affirmative action harms recipients by placing them in competitive environments where they invariably are outmatched. If they attended schools with peers who share equivalent preparation, then they wouldn't enter a kind of "self-doubt" spiral, where relatively poor performance confirms doubt, which in turn feeds further poor performance. Consequently, the number of black attorneys would rise without affirmative action, as fewer would drop out of school or fail the bar exam.

Kennedy spends many pages summarizing other people's rebuttals to Sander before getting to his own (weak) counterargument, which essentially is to argue: yes the mismatch effect may reduce the number of black lawyers but "[a]n alternative goal is to advance the black community as a whole, a goal that might be seen as better served by whichever admissions regime will assure the largest number of blacks at the most elite schools" (133).

In the margin of my book I scribbled "proof?" After all, affirmative action has been around for 40 years; at some point we have to move from the theoretical to the empirical. Kennedy doesn't really explain what the "benefits" would be to the community, but surely they should be measurable, otherwise saying "maybe the black community as a whole benefits" is the kind of glib, non-falsifiable argument I would expect to hear at a dinner party. An argument that can't be falsified is probably not genuine.

There's also reason to doubt whether or not Kennedy seriously believes that the "black community as a whole benefits" from affirmative action because, only ten pages later, he responds to another left-liberal critique: that affirmative action recipients are overwhelmingly mixed-race or are children of immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean, who are not positioned to "provide leadership in the continuing struggle against African American subordination" (144). Kennedy seems to concede this reality but meekly offers (in my paraphrase) "don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."

However, if it's true that two-thirds of affirmative action recipients have a relatively weak association with the mass of African-Americans, can we really say that they are likely "to advance the black community as a whole" because they have an elite law degree, which is Kennedy's non-falsifiable rebuttal to Sander? Maybe these facts can be reconciled and harmonized, but Kennedy doesn't attempt to and I can't on my own do it.

The remainder of the book contains little to discover. One long chapter looks at various Supreme Court opinions and criticizes the "diversity" rational for affirmative action. Yet Kennedy doesn't provide a competing rational that is as clear. Instead, he argues that affirmative action should remedy past conduct, which is variously described as "discrimination," "segregation," or "an affront to basic human dignity." Since his example of each is drawn from black history, it isn't obvious whether or not there is a straightforward application to non-black recipients of affirmative action. I was hoping for a clearer discussion. After reading this chapter, I kind of felt as if "diversity" was a more intelligible rationale for affirmative action (and an easier principle to administer) than anything Kennedy had to offer by way of contrast.

This is the third book in a row in which Kennedy has discussed affirmative action. In SELLOUT (2008), he included a long essay on Clarence Thomas's views on affirmative action (that took up about a third of the book). And in THE PERSISTENCE OF THE COLOR LINE (2011), Kennedy used affirmative action as a frame for interpreting public debates surrounding President Obama's election and the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. Now there's this book. As the books pile up, the analysis isn't getting any sharper.

Will there be a fourth?
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biased but a must-read !, December 8, 2013
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This review is from: For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (Hardcover)
Most interesting and clear presentation even though I happen to disagree with the author. On the whole slightly biased but should make some readers comfortable about positive discrimination.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult Justice for a hard topic, January 7, 2014
This review is from: For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (Hardcover)
It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a book on affirmative action. I’ve been applying for some “diversity and inclusion” positions on college campuses, and it annoys me more than a little bit when job counselors (and others) tell me to avoid talking about affirmative action. But now I have been able to enlarge the understanding I have had for affirmative action, thanks to Harvard Law School professor and author Randall Kennedy, with For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (N.Y.: Pantheon, 2013). This is a book which puts me back in the company in which I want to be.

My own take has been that affirmative action is simply the effort(s) employers make to see that their workforce roughly reflects the demographics of the community in which they are located. Kennedy, goes so far as to assert that the courts are the major culprit in making a mess of what affirmative action really is and isn’t, so I don’t entirely blame myself for the mis-underinterpretation. He sets that forth, as an esteemed friend of the court, that affirmative action is: “policies that offer individuals deemed to be affiliated with a beneficiary group a preference over others in competitions for employment, education, or other valued resources” (p.20). For me his working definition is significant in two ways. First, I had to change my own particular mind set; it can’t be about demographics per se because minorities continue to come to employment and higher education, in particular, without the background and contacts to be able to efficiently navigate their way to equal opportunities. Second, while most of Kennedy’s book ultimately speaks to issues of racial affirmative action, his definition points to the utility of affirmative action for all historically underrepresented beneficiaries of societal resources for upward mobility (yes, women included, of which I am one).

Counselor Kennedy clarifies well his unapologetic stance for discrimination in favor of the historically disadvantaged, marginalized and damaged. These groups have suffered irrefutable harms by egregious chauvinist acts by the privileged groups of [American] society. As a woman, I [myself] continue to be majorly irked that the concept of comparable worth, so effectively instituted by policy makers in the U.S. military during World War II, has yet to trickle down to women in the private sector. Women continue to make only 70 cents on the dollar for every dollar a man makes. This despite the political and social efforts of the feminist movement, the leaders of which, made it a cause d’etre in the late seventies and early eighties.

Although I digress slightly above, it is very much so, that, in the still forward cause of affirmative action, there are clear social advocates for, and campaigners against, affirmative action. Deal-making (pragmatic/conniving) politicians and cautious (and in Counselor Kennedy’s clearly stated observations) ERRING court judges and justices continue to muck the issue up. Again I arise in my own defense of mis-underinterpretion, but, as an avowed academic observer of affirmative action developments over the years, I say that affirmative action issues cross a wide range, and that this creates a complication for anyone, layperson or practitioner, to be able to achieve, in my opinion, a balanced understanding of affirmative action.

So, what is this animal affirmative action? Kennedy details the reasons for its inception and development and also the cogent arguments against it. “Making amends for the cruel, debilitating, racially motivated wrongs imposed upon racial minorities, particularly blacks, over a long period, [sic] is the single most compelling justification for racial affirmative action.” (p.78) Affirmative action as reparations, however, draws fierce criticism, outlines Kennedy, for these [purported]reasons : (1) [current] beneficiaries are not themselves actual victims; (2) [current] beneficiaries are typically better off than fellow minorities lower down the socioeconomic ladder; and (3) [current] whites “burdened” by affirmative action are not responsible for the [historic] wrongs. (pp.81-82) Even critics from the left side of the spectrum say that affirmative action is a “glorified tokenism that buys off talented blacks who might otherwise provide leadership to a grassroots insurgency, and that it ruins the prospects for interracial populism.” (p.88)

“A second major rationale FOR affirmative action,” Kennedy writes, “ is ‘diversity.’ Devotees of diversity argue that teaching, learning, and decision making will typically be richer, more informed, and better received if a wide array of people affiliated with salient social groupings participate together in carrying out the missions of the nation’s schools, workplaces, and government.” (p.94) Critics call the diversity camp strategically smart, but insincere and intellectually dishonest. Finally, affirmative action is justified as a means of integration and as a means of supplementing anti-discrimination. The arguments against these goals are that some whites may feel disappointed and mistreated in response; blacks have reported feeling stigmatized; and, Kennedy himself admits that he has seen, disastrous mis-matches, in cases where woefully unprepared candidates land in positions or situations that are personally devastating to them.

Kennedy points out disingenuous claims of both “sides.” Proponents have indeed masked their advocacy of affirmative action under the rubric of diversity arguments, to avoid the contentious issue of quotas. More recently “Top Ten Percent” policies that effectively advance the aims of affirmative action are used to mask benefits for people of color because theoretically they equally help poor whites as well. Detractors of affirmative action choose to misquote Martin Luther King Jr. and/or conveniently spout the gradual assimilation orientation of Booker T. Washington. Politicians, most notably perhaps, President Richard Nixon, who actually initiated important minority business initiatives, have changed course when expediency prevailed. Courts, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, have chosen to narrowly construe affirmative action in the context of the results achieved under a mantra of so-called color-blind college admissions and, ironically, employment needs as stated in amicus briefs by leaders of the American business community. By and large, however, and in spite of ourselves, American society has, yes, become less tolerant of blatant racism and chauvinism, so advances are being made, and such that, some on the issue claim affirmative action is no longer necessary or its need will expire in the near future.

Despite claims and counter-claims and legal and political compromises, however, are what some scholars allude to as a continued effectual caste system (something still being sought legal remedies for in India, for example). In The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness, OSU scholar and author Michelle Alexander points out that, even with the first black President in the White House, a hugely disproportionate number of blacks still end up incarcerated rather than in college or gainful, legal employment. The Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. has demographic data that can predict with virtually 99 percent accuracy whether a child will end up in prison; most of those pipelined into incarceration are people of color and poverty. The colorblind proposition that race ought to play no role in assessing individuals, Kennedy calls “bumper sticker” convenience that covers up injustice. The professor recounts Poet Langston Hughes in a footnote:
That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we blacks are wise.
Her bondage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes. (p.181)

For me the central issue still goes back to Philosopher John Rawl’s theory of social justice. It’s what he called the “veil of ignorance,” about imagining one’s self going to sleep one night not knowing what color, socio-economic status, or nationality one might wake up to be in the morning. Wouldn’t, if that happened to everyone one day, wouldn’t that shape one’s sense of fair play and empathy. Randall Kennedy avers that there are indeed negative side effects of affirmative action, some of which have been listed here, but, on the whole, like any pill, the benefits far outweigh the side effects. I concur.
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13 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The race Industry, September 18, 2013
By 
James F. Brown (San Francisco Bay Area) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (Hardcover)
Randall Kennedy was admitted to Yale Law School because he was black. As a result, he now writes books about his race. He is not the only one-a quick look at any library's social science shelf reveals that race is indeed an industry.
That being said-it is a well organized narrative. He is passionate believer in the continuing need for affirmative action. Moreover, he doesn't much care about how it is accomplished or what it is called. For Kennedy by any means necessary would be an apt mantra.
Unfortunatly, for Kennedy the law doesn't work that way. He makes clear for example, in Gratz v. Bollinger the Supreme Court struck down the University of Michigan's point system for admission to its undergraduate programs.(Kennedy calls it The Colleges of Literature, Science and the Arts-a bit of a dodge) For those like Kennedy who take who take a no prisoners approach to this issue it was quite a blow. On the other hand in Grutter v. Bollinger the Supreme Court upheld the University of Michigan's Law School plan which argued that admitting a critical mass of minority students was compelling and warranted. Again Kennedy makes it clear that this meet the Court's strick scrutiny requirement. Whether or not one agrees that decision was unique.
The book is quite readable. Again, Kennedy is passionate but he is not a prig-he wants to be understood and that is a good thing. However passion often makes for poor scholarship and a far as that goes I'll be generous and give him a C+. I don't understand for example why he throws the Korematsu case into the mix like a dead cat. It had nothing to do with affirmative action. Lastly,his footnotes and citations are at best middling. So far there is little evidence that diversity enhances scholarship or has any affect on learning or I.Q. Japan and Korea are producing engineers without it but for many in America the word 'diversity' takes on a religious connotation. Kennedy makes it very clear that he is a devotee of that religion.
He ends with a brief history of affirmative action for blacks in other countries. Brazil, for example had 10 times the number of black slaves as the United States and did not ban slavery until 1885. (peonage however would continue) Apparently Kenndey didn't know The Olympics are being held there and Brazil, being very color conscious, seems intent on going with a quota system for college admissions.

I can find better things to spend $25.95 on. Libraries are free and that is what I recommend.

I'm going to end with an editorial. I think affirmative has become a make-work mill for lawyers and activists. Further, it creates more resentment and tension. No thoughtful person would want that. So rather then spend all the time, money and court costs I believe that we should consider some kind of NBA-like lottery for college admissions. If one has a perfect SAT, MSAT or LSAT you will be admitted just about anywhere. But if one has very high test scores and GPA you should have that in your favor- a weighted lottery where everyone who meets a minimum standard has a chance. A modest proposal is something Kennedy and others don't seem to consider.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A first class publication, October 30, 2013
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This review is from: For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (Hardcover)
I haven't yet had a chance to finish it - too many other commitments. But the issue is extremely well presented, and the arguments are well thought out.
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4 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 50 Years Since the March on Washington But ............., September 5, 2013
This review is from: For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (Hardcover)
Diversity promotes the highest level of education that one could ever experience. On September 3 pick up a copy of For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (Randall Kennedy). For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law is the voice about how affirmative action is shaping our Country.

August 28, 2013 marked the 50 years since the March on Washington (initially March on Jobs and Freedom) and we still have a long way to go. When will it change? Has anyone ever considered that if the wrongs that were done over 50 years ago were made right, schools were made equal and underrepresented and socio-economic businesses were given ample opportunities for increasing their revenue stream that we would not need affirmative action or any other programs to level the playing field?

There are some States that lack diversity therefore their people lack it. The people do not realize the essence of what diversity can bring from a 3D perspective to spirited conversations. One's culture, insight and upbringing makes a big different in any setting.

Without affirmative action we become stagnant and stale. Without affirmative action there is no room for growth. Without affirmative action we become one-dimensional in our interpersonal relationships. Without affirmative action we fail.

This thought provoking book helps the reader better understand affirmative action and its effect on this Country.

Recommended. Pick up your copy today.
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For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law
For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law by Randall Kennedy (Hardcover - September 3, 2013)
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