- Series: Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society
- Hardcover: 200 pages
- Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 1st edition (July 16, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0742562867
- ISBN-13: 978-0742562868
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #755,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Race, Wrongs, and Remedies: Group Justice in the 21st Century (Hoover Studies in Politics, Economics, and Society) 1st Edition
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(Amy Wax) reviews a great deal of social science data showing the pallid or perverse effects of policies aimed at teenage pregnancy, education, job training, prison rehabilitation, and many more. (American Lawyer, October 1, 2009) Wax combines conceptual insights from the law of torts and remedies with a thorough reading of the scholarship on racial disparities to bring much-needed clarity to the discussion of the black man's burden.
Amy Wax's Race, Wrongs, and Remedies is a provocative discussion of policies to close the race gap in America. Using the insightful legal distinction between liability and remedy, she shows that self-help can be a powerful force for remediating social wrongs. This book will help change the dialogue of race in America from a discussion about passive victims, guilt, and reparations to a more active embrace of individual responsibility and human agency. Its message is bold and clear. (James J. Heckman, professor of economics, The University of Chicago)
Professor Wax's book is the quintessence of cool, clean, and unassailable good sense. One is to be pardoned for wondering whether the most important book on race of the year could be one by a white female law professor. Well, one need wonder no more―it is. (The New Republic 2010-07-14)
Amy L. Wax combines conceptual insights from the law of torts and remedies with a thorough reading of the scholarship on racial disparities to bring much-needed clarity to the discussion of the black man's burden. (Claremont Review of Books 2011-07-01)
Every officer in the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs should read this book. Indeed, every federal or state public servant delivering services to, and/or making policy for Aborigines should think deeply about the applicability to Aborigines of Amy Wax's insights into the plight of black Americans. (Public Administration)
Wax combines conceptual insights from the law of torts and remedies with a thorough reading of the scholarship on racial disparities to bring much-needed clarity to the discussion of the black man's burden.
Professor Wax's book is the quintessence of cool, clean, and unassailable good sense. One is to be pardoned for wondering whether the most important book on race of the year could be one by a white female law professor. Well, one need wonder no more--it is.
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Prof. Amy Wax’s book is provocative in that it attempts to shed more light than heat about systemic racism, its effects, and potential ways to change cultural thinking in both whites and blacks. She provides a fresh perspective, but one that will challenge conventional thinking by well-meaning people. Wax believes that structural systemic efforts by government or other external entities to eliminate racial inequality have both helped and hurt the black community. After fifty years of major racial progress in many areas, there has been backsliding in others. She argues that although emphasis on law and policy may have once made sense, the time has come to assign priority to self-improvement through behavioral, cultural, and moral reform. She never advocates abandoning the former, but believes there is now more progress to be made in the latter areas.
Through the simple “parable of the pedestrian,” Wax defines the situation succinctly. A pedestrian crosses the street at the crosswalk and with the light. A driver runs a red light, hitting the pedestrian, causing major physical damage. Under the law and common sense, the driver should be responsible for returning the pedestrian to his previous status by paying for medical care and rehabilitation. But what if that rehab requires physical therapy that the pedestrian refuses to participate in? The pedestrian’s injured status is not fair and was not his fault. Nonetheless, the driver is powerless to return the pedestrian to his former status without some effort by the pedestrian. So it is with the racial victim. Not his fault, not fair, but requires some additional effort on his part to return to a “normal” status.
Contrary to a couple of negative reviews posted here, Wax fully blames whites for both racism against blacks and the residual effects of that racism. The main topic of this book is, “Where do we go from here” to either reduce or remove those residual effects. In other words, what works and what doesn’t. She also addresses head on the charge of “blaming the victim” in infinite detail, devoting a full chapter to the discussion, so I don’t understand the reviewer who levels that charge. Wax does nothing of the sort.
Words have meaning, and the author discusses terminology designed to cut through emotion and bring some reality to the discussion of racial inequity. Remedial idealism, the rescue and moral fantasy, is a belief that we can always return a victim to a prior status or “normal” condition if we can only apply some external solution. Wax easily points out the fallacies of this belief system by way of many examples. She would like to replace the term with remedial realism. Find out what works and do more. Find out what doesn’t and do less of it. Focusing totally on the past will not provide for the future of the black community. As with the parable of the pedestrian, identifying the perpetrator and establishing the causal mechanism of harm need not point to the only way of relief.
Like all books discussing reams of source materials, there are a few misinterpretations of studies and some over-simplification of remedies. This does not detract from the main thrust of the book.
To fully understand Wax’s arguments, read the book in its entirety. In typical lawyer-like fashion, she builds her case bit by bit. Her views about cultural and behavioral elements are held by many black commentators as well as defined in many books by black authors. Those are not the majority black views, however, and she explains why in detail. Wax points out that some black leaders have financial skin in the victimization game and some politicians gain votes by enacting various programs for their communities, whether those programs are effective or not. The majority of the black community has been raised with a victimization culture, not without reason, and will be unaware of the many studies showing that there is no simple solution to racial inequities. Thus, it will be the left to community organizations to bring about the cultural and behavioral changes in the black community required for advancement. Wax does not say that any of this will be easy, but it is necessary. Racial pride alone will make scrutiny of the black community culture, even if done internally, a minefield.
In the end, whether you agree with Wax’s remedies or not, you will gain a better understanding of racism and its inequities by reading this book.
& accurate I have seen.
Jews, Gypsies and gays were not responsible for being gassed, shot, hanged, and simply kicked to death by Hitler, with the deep appreciation of a large section of the German and surrounding peoples. But they are responsible for making sure this does not happen again. This can happen only if they blame themselves for their near-eradication. Of course, the non-oppressed have a moral obligation for aiding in any way they can the cause of the oppressed. But, the bottom line is people must end their own oppression however they can manage to do so.
In this lucid and hard-hitting essay on the politics of race in the United States, Amy L. Wax, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, makes a completely different argument, coming not from history and collective action, but from tort law. She takes without argument the premise that the position of poor blacks in America is due to a culture of poverty that was foisted upon the urban black community by virtue of centuries of slavery and racial bigotry. I believe that this premise is completely accurate and serves as an auspicious starting point for the analysis. Wax then distinguishes between liability and remedy. While others are liable for the position of poor blacks in America, remedy lies wholly in the hands of the inner-city black community itself.
Her paradigmatic analogy is with a pedestrian crippled after being hit by a car. The driver of the car and the insurance company may be liable, both morally and financially, but the major part of the remedy lies with the pedestrian himself, who will recover the use of his legs only by following a strict and demanding regime of exercise and diet. "accepting a key role for victims does not `blame the victim' because," writes Wax, "it implies no exoneration of the wrongdoer. As the parable of the pedestrian illustrates, relying on victims to heal their own injuries does not mean denying that others have harmed them." (p. 119).
Wax's argument is absolutely brilliant. Staggeringly brilliant. It is certainly a lot better than my argument in silencing the critics who say "your blame the victim argument self-servingly exonerates the perpetrators of oppression." Wax absolutely deep-sixes this (lame) critique. Moreover, she gives absolutely not ground to the "remedial idealism" (p. 107) typical of American sociologists, who make a good living simpering over the indignities of racial injustice. She also has only scorn for the postmodern ideal that all social institutions are "socially constructed" and hence the culture of others cannot be criticized. Wax has no trouble attacking the cultural practices of the ghetto that perpetually ghettoize, and the dimwitted ideas of the postmodernists. She similarly attacks affirmative action and such "double standards" as allowing minorities to join the police force despite their inability to pass the entrance exams.
Wax writes with full authority and clarity, without ever overextending her argument. This is a deeply, deeply persuasive work of historical importance. Of course, it has all been said before (think of the comedian Bill Cosby, and those who have called Al Sharpton and other self-appointed black leaders "professional beggars"). But it has not been said with such clarity and authority. I think Wax goes too far in rejecting help from the outside. People need all the help they can get. It is just that in the end, we stand alone in determining our fate as individuals and as peoples.