WE WON'T GO BACK

MAKING THE CASE FOR AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

Responding to the current wave of affirmative-action backlash, two Georgetown law professors, each proud beneficiaries of the policy, stand as zealous advocates brooking no retreat. ``Our parents taught us that . . . the struggle to make a place at the table for ourselves was also the struggle to free the souls of those who would exclude us,'' write Lawrence (who is African-American) and Matsuda (Japanese-American) of their individual family legacies of political idealism and civil rights activism. The two authors—colleagues who are also married to each other—here form a tireless tag team to continue the relay. They alternate in writing 11 complementary essays that argue for muscular affirmative-action programs as the best tool to end the residual racial, gender, and economic subordination running through our society. As legal scholars, each is a leading proponent of an analytical perspective known as critical race theory, which documents how race, gender, and socioeconomic status shape our social and legal system, as well as our varied individual experiences navigating that system. In this book they acknowledge that overt bigotry has been rejected by our culture, but trace the unconscious prejudices that still prevail and structure access to real opportunity. What today's affirmative-action opponents want to push back, they argue, is the very effort to redistribute opportunity that is essential to dismantling institutionalized privilege of all kinds. The authors earnestly believe that attaining a freer and more just society will benefit everyone and justify the difficulty of a contentious transition. Extending the discussion beyond the combative rhetoric of reverse discrimination and racial preference, Matsuda and Lawrence have written a compassionate call to conscience, imprinted with their inspirational vision of American democracy and complex sense of a national community. But not everyone will buy into their communal vision of justice, which will remain anathema to unreconstructed rugged American individualists.

Pub Date: March 25, 1997

ISBN: 0-395-79125-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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