PLACE, NOT RACE by Sheryll Cashin


A New Vision of Opportunity in America
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A noted legal scholar analyzes the problems with race-based affirmative action in college admissions and proposes a race-neutral plan as an alternative.

After looking at how and why support for affirmative action policies has eroded in recent years, Cashin (Law/Georgetown Univ.; The Agitator's Daughter: A Memoir of Four Generations of One Extraordinary African-American Family, 2008, etc.) observes that the goal of diversity has become the mantra of many elite schools. However, to achieve it, they often select students of color who are immigrants or the children of immigrants; this practice creates an “optical” diversity but little socioeconomic diversity. To create real diversity and greater social cohesion, the author proposes that colleges give more weight to the structural disadvantages faced by applicants. By this, she means all forms of disadvantages but especially growing up in a neighborhood where poverty is prevalent, attending a poor school or living in a low-income household. Applicants would be invited to share the disadvantages they have had to overcome, and no special consideration would be given to race or ethnicity. Further, Cashin proposes that financial aid be based solely on need. Existing systems, the author writes, are simply replicating and reinforcing socioeconomic advantage, contrary to colleges’ professed missions and the American ideals of fairness, opportunity and human dignity. In subsequent chapters, Cashin presents two case histories demonstrating how racial coalitions that included Republicans brought about legislative changes that affected higher education in Texas and immigrant rights in Mississippi. Her point is that multiracial alliances that create new collective identities are effective ways to bring about social change. An epilogue that could stand alone but seems appropriate here contains a moving letter from Cashin to her two young sons voicing the hopes and fears of a mother raising black sons in contemporary America.

A sensible proposal backed by hard data.

Pub Date: May 6th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8070-8614-8
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2014


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