Race Matters

This book is either irrefutable evidence against a multicultural society or the last-ditch plea of someone who is very concerned with the problems posed by multiculturalism but: who wants to make a go of it nevertheless. It may well be both.

Lani Guinier's essays ask how far democracy must go to accommodate itself to groups that perceive themselves as a permanent minority. Consequently, the ghost of the greatest American statesman of the 19th century, John C. Calhoun, hovers over these pages; yet Calhoun is not alluded to once in the entire volume. One reason for this may be that Lani Guinier is—at least she claims to be—a democrat, while Calhoun was a republican through and through. Another may be the very different interests for which they speak. But Calhoun's absence, given Guinier's concerns, is strange nonetheless.

An ever-present theme in Guinier's book—that race continues to matter in American life—is something that virtually everyone acknowledges in private but seldom addresses in public. This is not surprising. Race all too frequently overlaps cultural considerations, and this means that anyone short of the abstract zombies one finds in the writings of John Rawls (and John Locke) considers it in his calculations of such things as where to live, where to take his recreation, and where to send his children to school. Lani Guinier knows this. She also knows that, all too often...

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