The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action

By Richard D. Kahlenberg | Go to book overview

Introduction
The Lost Thread

IN THE SUMMER of 1991, Judge Clarence Thomas began to visit various U.S. senators to round up support for his Supreme Court nomination. The fate of affirmative action was a central concern among Democrats, and as my boss, Senator Charles S. Robb of Virginia, and I prepared to meet Thomas, it was clear that the issue had to be raised. Robb, the son-in-law of President Lyndon Johnson, had a strong civil rights record, and he asked Thomas to explain his position on affirmative action. Thomas was not at all defensive about his opposition to racial preferences. Why, the judge responded, should his son receive a preference in college admissions over a poor white applicant from Appalachia?1

The question was disarming, not only because a black judge was telling a white senator that African Americans do not need special help, but more profoundly because a Republican was telling a Democrat that class matters. Implicit in the familiar criticism--that a child of a rich black doctor does not deserve a preference over the child of a poor white janitor--is the notion not only that race should not count, but that perhaps class should.2

The thesis of this book is that affirmative action, a well- intentioned but flawed instrument of public policy, should not be discarded but should be revamped so that preferences in education, in employment, and in government contracting are provided on the basis of class, not race or gender. The socio- economically disadvantaged of all races would benefit--the poor Appalachian student and the young Clarence Thomas of Pinpoint, Georgia--but not Clarence Thomas's son. Because of our nation's history of discrimination, minorities are disproportionately disadvantaged and would disproportionately benefit

-xxiii-

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The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Praise for The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action i
  • Title Page v
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Preface to the Paperback Edition xv
  • Introduction - The Lost Thread xxiii
  • Part I 1
  • 1 - The Early Aspirations of Affirmative Action 3
  • 2 - Affirmative Action Gone Astray 16
  • 3 - A Report Card on Affirmative Action Today 42
  • Part 2 81
  • 4 - The Case for Class- Based Affirmative Action 83
  • 5 - The Mechanics of Class- Based Affirmative Action 121
  • 6 - Six Myths About Class-Based Preferences 153
  • Part 3 181
  • 7 - Picking Up the Lost Thread 183
  • Notes 211
  • Bibliography 322
  • Index 339
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