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Place, Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America Hardcover – May 6, 2014
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“A sensible proposal backed by hard data.”
“Cashin sketches the legal and political history of affirmative action, and attends to both resentful whites (Obama’s 'election seems to have exacerbated the perception gap about racial inequality') and advantaged blacks ('Economic elites of all colors enjoy built-in advantages in the withering competition for spaces at choice schools').” —Publishers Weekly
“More than 30 years later, a former Supreme Court clerk to Justice Marshall, Georgetown University Law Professor Sheryll Cashin, makes a powerful case that it’s time to rethink her former boss’s support for racial preferences. The place to begin, she argues in her brilliant new book, is an affirmative action that responds directly to the failure of the Brown decision to desegregate schools. . . . Skillfully blending her personal story as an upper-middle-class black professional with a wide range of research on what constitute the biggest barriers to success today, Cashin provides a compelling blueprint for a new, much stronger, form of affirmative action based on actual disadvantage. . . .But overall, Cashin’s agenda provides a huge step forward from those liberals who would hold on to Justice Marshall’s plan for a century of racial preferences. While seemingly progressive, such policies in practice are deeply conservative, she correctly contends.” —New Republic
“Place, Not Race is a courageous and deeply insightful contribution to our racial justice discourse, offering a perspective that is both desperately needed and long overdue.”
—Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
“A thought-provoking look at affirmative action in America. Whether you agree or disagree with her ideas, it is an important debate for our country to have, and Place, Not Race is a critical contribution to that debate.”
—Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
“Professor Sheryl Cashin has written a bold, bracing book that will generate useful controversy over competing strategies for overcoming social inequalities in America. Deeply knowledgeable about her volatile subject, she illuminates it with keen insight and vivid writing that is attractively accessible. Even those who disagree with Cashin will likely derive much value from reading her.”
—Randall Kennedy, author of For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law and Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word
“As America becomes more diverse, it paradoxically finds itself increasingly stratified on the basis of place rather than race. Sheryll Cashin’s refreshing call for a new multiracial politics of inclusion is a timely and greatly needed addition to the civil rights debate, one that deserves strong support among Americans of all origins.”
—Douglas S. Massey, author of American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass
“If you think everything possible about affirmative action has already been said, think again. Sheryll Cashin has given us a breakthrough book. America is segregated by a devastating mixture of economics and race. Why not build a policy that benefits children—of all races—who live on the wrong side of the tracks? Provocative and illuminating, Place, Not Race presents a brave new argument for bettering affirmative action in the 21st century.”
—Peter B. Edelman, author of So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America
About the Author
Sheryll Cashin, professor of law at Georgetown University, is the author of The Agitator’s Daughter and The Failures of Integration. Cashin has published widely in academic journals and print media and is a frequent commentator on law and race relations, having appeared on NPR, CNN, ABC News, and numerous other outlets. Born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, where her parents were political activists, Cashin was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and served in the Clinton White House as an advisor on urban and economic policy. She lives with her husband and two sons in Washington, DC.
Top customer reviews
She personalizes her story with her family (her father and children) and had a very touching and realistic letter to her children. She has quite a story, growing up as one of 2 black students at her elementary school and went on to graduate from Vanderbilt and Harvard Law School and clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall. She currently is a Law Professor at Georgetown, so she has seen incredible success.
It is a very interesting and informative read that I highly recommend and feel more informed after reading it!
Using place instead of race as a criterion for college admissions would weaken the lawsuits of Whites who have been discriminated against by the present system, while advancing the education of bright hard-working kids, of any race, often overlooked because their parents don't have the clout or connections to get they considered for admission.
Georgetown law professor Sheryll Cashin manages to straddle both sides of this important debate. Dispassionately scrutinizing the numbers, clearly black Americans bear multi-generational disadvantages that they cannot simply muscle through. Cashin's analysis resembles a much briefer synopsis of Ian Haney López. But race-based scrutiny overlooks that poor whites face categorically different circumstances than the rich; Cashin writes, "Working-class whites are rarely disaggregated in these debates."
Cashin sees the linking factor not as race, but poverty. As an educator herself, Cashin focuses on access to postsecondary schooling, which has distinct economic implications. Poor people, even what Cashin calls "low-income strivers," have systemic barriers to education access (her lengthy demonstration defies abridgement). Lack of educational access has consequences which unspool throughout a citizen's life. Therefore, Cashin says, poverty trumps race as a situation needing redress.
I'll buy that. But Cashin's solution is to focus efforts on geographically localized poverty. Public policy, like zoning regulations and the end of forced busing in the 1990s, have moved America's poor into close physical proximity. This has racial overtones, admittedly: middle-class neighborhoods are more predominantly white and Asian, while poor neighborhoods are more black and Hispanic. While racial segregation is forbidden today, economic segregation is both legal and widespread.
Thus Cashin's title: we should solve inequality based on place, not race. Because certain geographic regions have superior access to pre-college tutoring and career planning; because seventy-five percent of students entering America's most prestigious universities graduated from less than one thousand high schools; because America's college graduates now live in deep concentration, mentoring rising youth based on proximity, we must privilege geography in dispensing redress. How could anyone possibly disagree?
Easily. Cashin's solution assumes economic segregation has remained largely constant, and will continue doing so for the foreseeable future. Sadly, reading Cashin's well-reasoned argument, I cannot forget what I've learned from other authors. Jeff Speck and Brown et al. muster statistics that America's demography is currently reversing after the 2007 housing bubble collapse. We're living through the reversal of "White Flight," and American poverty will soon look very, very different.
From the Great Depression until about the year 2000, those who could afford it abandoned America's cities, creating new, largely black and Hispanic classes called "the urban poor." But highly educated, economically mobile young Millennials now want to live within walking distance of work, commerce, and recreation, meaning they're moving back into cities. Rich, mostly white investors have bought and renovated urban neighborhoods, pricing the poor out of their homes.
In our lifetime, we're witnessing the biggest reorientation of money and geography since World War II. As dense urban housing becomes high-demand and prices soar, suburban housing values stagnate, even decline in certain regions. Cashin briefly addresses suburban poverty, but doesn't linger on possibly the biggest counterargument: old neighborhoods, poor but blessed with strong social ties, are scattering outward as suburban rentals become the only housing "urban poor" can afford.
Linking poverty rectification to place assumes that money and geography have a stable relationship. Until recently, that was true, but the post-war cultural conditions that encouraged Levittown-style suburban development have reversed since the millennium, and accelerated since 2007. Geographically based programs would now either become quickly outmoded by events, or require costly new layers of bureaucracy to keep abreast of changing conditions. For obvious reasons, neither option is desirable.
Cashin makes a persuasive case that what we're doing now no longer rectifies the problem that precipitated it. She musters copious evidence that we must recalibrate our attempts to squelch generational poverty. What we're doing now, Cashin insists, had brief benefits, but currently only stirs the pot, keeping "low-income strivers" always one school district, one campus visit, or one need-based scholarship away from achieving the life their efforts merit.
Informed readers will have difficulty disagreeing with Cashin's enlightening set-up. She exposes how, post-Johnson, America's systemic problem has shifted off race, at least directly, and onto economics. But her suggestions for redress make the common mistake, creating a prior system we can plug into unique situations. She's trying to solve a statistical problem, not a lived one, and statistics tend to squirm around inconveniently.