Toxic Diversity: Race, Gender, and Law Talk in America

Toxic Diversity: Race, Gender, and Law Talk in America

Toxic Diversity: Race, Gender, and Law Talk in America

Toxic Diversity: Race, Gender, and Law Talk in America


"A thoughtful critique of identity politics in the nationæs law schools.... It is the great merit of Mr. Subotnikæs work that he moves us toward a single standard for judging scholarship and thus helps create the conditions for the common enterprise of explaining our social world and even, if we are lucky, improving it. -The Wall Street Journal

"Many outside the universities think that political correctness faded from the campus in the mid-nineties. Dan Subotnik shows that it never went away: it got tenure. This book is beautifully written, consistently enjoyable, and replete with wonderful anecdotes and memorable humor. It is also thoroughly researched and reliable. -Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism?

"This is the kind of fearless work that will read as common sense a hundred years from now, to readers who will be as perplexed by much of our current race writing as we are today by medieval tracts about alchemy. -John McWhorter, author of Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America

"The left knows how to dish out criticism. Can it take it? With the publication of Toxic Diversity, we'll find out. More subtle and searching than other critiques of critical race theory, critical legal studies, and feminist legal theory, Dan Subotnikæs book poses challenges that all progressives, myself included, will need to consider. -Richard Delgado, Professor of Law and Derrick Bell Fellow in Law, University of Pittsburgh Law School An entertaining and enlightening excursion into the world of critical race and gender theory. Even those who disagree with Subotnik's critique will appreciate the value of his analysis. Toxic Diversity is a worthwhile contribution to the dialogue over diversity in its many forms. --Steven G. Gey, Florida State University College of Law Toxic Diversity offers an invigorating view of race, gender, and law in America. Analyzing the work of preeminent legal scholars such as Patricia Williams, Derrick Bell, Lani Guinier, and Richard Delgado, Dan Subotnik argues that race and gender theorists poison our social and intellectual environment by almost deliberately misinterpreting racial interaction and data and turning white males into victimizers. Far from energizing women and minorities, Subotnik concludes, theorists divert their energies from implementing America's social justice agenda. Insisting, in the words of James Baldwin, that "not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced," and that thoughtful Americans regardless of race and gender can handle frank conversations about difficult topics, Subotnikæs critique of race and gender theory pulls no punches as it confronts such inflammatory issues as single parenthood, the merit system in academic and business settings, gender privilege in the classroom, and crime.


“[I]n most things my philosophy is that of doubt,” Cicero wrote more than two thousand years ago, and, for much of the time since, doubt has enjoyed a position of honor at the philosopher’s table. For Jacob Bronowski, a distinguished scientist in our own time, academic work is an adventure in doubting: “It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it.”

Why should we face our world with skepticism? Because exercising doubt offers the best evidence available that we are alive? Indeed, many scholars understand Descartes’s “Cogito ergo sum” as “I doubt therefore I am.” So as not to be misled by language that is too unrefined to convey the complexity of a speaker’s or writer’s thoughts? Because authors may not withstand the temptation to conceal the truth in order to ingratiate themselves with intended audiences? Because there may be no other antidote to the the vanity of authors when self-interest overwhelms their analytical skills? Finally, is foundational skepticism necessary because authors tend to overstate their positions out of terror that for all the intensity of effort, they will be found to be bores?

All of the above, I suggest—and more. Asked for his favorite epigram, Karl Marx responded, “de omnibus disputandum,” i.e., “doubt everything.” We must approach the world skeptically, Marx suggests, because, in ways that are often extremely difficult to detect, all cultural phenomena—texts no less than anything else—are the conscious or unconscious products of power relationships. This view has been so highly developed in our own time by French thinker Michel Foucault—with specific regard to language—that it is now next to impossible for a reader to ignore the relationship between power and culture.

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