A treat for obsessive court watchers that’s accessible to general readers.

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IN THE BALANCE

LAW AND POLITICS ON THE ROBERTS COURT

A distinguished constitutional law scholar examines the complex, occasionally surprising interplay of law and politics that explains decisions from our closely divided, highest court.

Constitutional jurisprudence involves reasoning from rules and precedent, the sort of legal analysis any lawyer or judge well understands, but it’s also shaded by a uniquely political dimension. By “politics,” Harvard Law School professor Tushnet (Why the Constitution Matters, 2011, etc.) means nothing so bald as the latest partisan dispatch from Democratic or Republican headquarters, but rather the “political structures and political visions” that produce nominees for the court, account for the principles and philosophies of the justices, shape arguments brought to the Supreme Court for adjudication, and frequently tip the balance in decisions. If the intellectual leadership of the Roberts Court passes from the chief justice to, say, Justice Elena Kagan—as it may if Obama is afforded future nominations—the shift will be attributable to this operation of politics on the court’s judgments. Tushnet teases out his argument with chapters devoted to the Roberts Court’s decisions on Obamacare, especially, and on other major cases dealing with affirmative action, gun rights, business interests, campaign finance and the First Amendment. The author is particularly good on the vetting process for justices, explaining how each party and president (with fingers crossed) approachs the selection of nominees. But the court, as Tushnet points out, plays a long game, and the mere passage of time can upset today’s careful political calculation. Things change, including the composition of political parties, the makeup of the court and the relations among the justices. Moreover, when politics and law mingle, as a number of the First Amendment decisions demonstrate, the “conservative versus liberal” narrative is not always so straightforward. Tushnet is an informed, experienced observer—he clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall and owes his Harvard appointment to then-dean Kagan—and he proves a sure-footed guide in difficult terrain.

A treat for obsessive court watchers that’s accessible to general readers.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-07344-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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