A vision of enhancing racial equality—or simply lessening racial inequality—in America.
By African-American legal scholar Higginbotham’s account, it wasn’t until he entered a well-heeled private school that he encountered the N-word thrown his way. When it was, a white coach cracked down hard, issuing “a zero tolerance policy for racial epithets.” No more such epithets were forthcoming, though not necessarily out of any inborn kindness on the part of the man who cast that first stone. The takeaway for Higginbotham: Civil rights movements on the part of the oppressed are well and good, but “whites needed to stand up against racism in order for it to cease.” Things are better in some respects than in the 1960s, but, writes the author, the formula has changed. Blacks—and, to a greater or lesser extent, other nonwhite ethnic groups—are no longer judged and discriminated against strictly on the basis of race, but also on factors of class, education, income and access to political power, among others. For example, regarding sports: “Recruited black players could play in games, but ‘walk-on’ black players could not.” Against such broadband exclusion, Higginbotham mounts a spirited defense of affirmative action policies that is backed by good case law and by common sense—or at least a sense of fair play, for, as he notes, few complain about legacy students getting into a particular college, but people certainly do complain when the numbers of black—or Asian or Hispanic—students go up, particularly if there is a perception that they are somehow undeserving. America may be trending toward justice, but that trend is slow. Otherwise, Higginbotham asks elsewhere in this searching argument, why is there a disproportionate number of homeless blacks?
A book worthy of a wide audience and wide discussion.