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Racial Culture: A Critique Hardcover – November 7, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0691119601 ISBN-10: 0691119600 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (November 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691119600
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691119601
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,467,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A serious work of legal scholarship about race that's innovative, bracing and funny? Stanford law professor Ford pulls it off in a surprising, rigorous volume that should send academics, legal professionals, civil rights activists and others dedicated to social justice racing for both sides of the barricades. Assembling a small library of case studies and legal research, along with relevant hypothetical scenarios, sophisticated analyses of popular culture and a careful dissection of multiculturalism, Ford makes a bold argument against the liberal emphasis on diversity and cultural rights from a position that is, as he puts it, "deep in the left wing of the palace." Ford argues that attempts to secure legal recognition for cultural difference—an African-American employee's right to wear her hair in cornrows, for instance—result in what he calls a "difference discourse" that is actually counterproductive, forcing minority groups to accept the very stereotypes they were trying to oppose by celebrating diversity. To counter this, Ford argues for greater "cosmopolitanism," wherein we promote "fluidity and movement through and between social distinctions and cultural practices." What keeps Ford's iconoclasm from becoming taxing is his refreshing irreverence: jokes abound about ironic postmodernists, civil rights for dog owners, the Log Cabin Republicans and his own fondness for a good martini. Agree with it or not, this book is an invigorating pleasure for thoughtful readers.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Ford, a law professor at Stanford, takes aim at the well-intentioned efforts to enshrine cultural differences in law—a black airline employee's right to wear a braided cornrow hair style, for instance—and suggests that they often push people "into displays of stereotypical group behavior" and into embracing the stereotype as their "authentic" identity. Ford is deliberately provocative and his arguments are ingenious, often funny, and sometimes remarkably personal. In contrast to the critical scrutiny he brings to bear on the identity-politics movement, he gives something of a free pass to the cosmopolitan ideals he favors. Disarmingly, though, he reassures us that—legal considerations aside—his sympathies are ultimately with the airline employee: "I think she should have been allowed to wear her braids."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael on December 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
Richard Ford is a law professor at Stanford, and his book "Racial Culture : A Critique" is a reaction to a particularly robust form of multiculturalism, which he terms "difference discourse." He takes the reader through a story where activists began to combat perceived white dominance by emphasizing the differences between Black and white culture. They didn't do a great job of seeing if the differences they were talking about (1) even existed or (2) were worth celebrating. And then the "difference discourse" took on a life of its own, holding Black people up to a racial authenticity test that would previously have been unheard of, and convincing white people that, yes, Blacks really were different than them. Worst of all, dishonest brokers, forced by the Supreme Court to show that "diversity" is so profound that it is a compelling state interest, now largely peddle this "difference discourse." A noble intention has become mired in its own logic.

The book is somewhat polemical, but it's well-informed and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. It's quite personal and not written like a stale academic text. Despite the targets of his argument, the book is *not* a right-wing screed; on the contrary, it is steeped in classical liberalism. The emphasis on legal examples may not serve some readers more interested in broader social trends, but I found them interesting. It's definitely a good read for students of and citizens in modern multicultural societies.
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