SEEING A COLOR-BLIND FUTURE by Patricia J. Williams

SEEING A COLOR-BLIND FUTURE

The Paradox of Race
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KIRKUS REVIEW

These five related essays, originally given as the 1997 BBC Reith Lectures, showcase the subtle thinking of Columbia University law professor Williams (The Rooster’s Egg, 1995). The notion of a “color-blind” society, in which everyone is judged by their performance and behavior, rather than by their racial makeup, is one of the clichÇs of American political discourse, wielded by both right and left. Williams tells her audience at the outset of this slender but immensely suggestive volume that “I embrace color-blindness as a legitimate hope for the future, [but] I worry that we tend to enshrine the notion with a kind of utopianism whose naivetÇ will ensure its elusiveness.” Williams dissects with a scalpel-sharp wit the many layers of paradox at the heart of the American (and English) racial divide. Despite the subtitle, the racial question is not one paradox but a fabric woven of many paradoxes. Among the paradoxes she highlights are the plight of African-Americans poised between two poles—the hypervisibility of being scapegoated and the oblivion of social neglect; the O.J. Simpson case being used as a crude parody of racial dialogue; the strange fact that “whiteness” is never coded as race but treated as normative. Williams readily admits that, unlike most pundits in this overcrowded field, she has no single, simple answer, no checklist of prescriptions, nor does she give credence to the idea of a society in which all is peace and light. Rather, she offers a commonsensical plea for empathy with the Other as the first step toward bridging the gap among white, black, red, yellow and brown. Written with an unerring eye for the thought-provoking and fresh metaphor, and with a skillful blending of personal and professional observation, this is one of the most intelligent commentaries on the vexed subject of race in many years.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-374-52533-1
Page count: 192pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998




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