Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race

By K. Anthony Appiah; Amy Gutmann | Go to book overview

Epliogue
K. ANTHONY APPIAH

Because … racial inequality is the product of an unjust
history, propagated across the generations in part by the
segmented social structure of our race conscious society,
it is appropriate that our government should be especially
concerned when economic disparity takes a
concentrated racial form.1

THERE IS a great deal of angry polemic about race in this country today. Accusations of racism, warranted and unwarranted, abound. Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, welfare queens, quota queens, the bell curve—each of these conjures debates with a distasteful tone. In this respect, discussions of race are perhaps typical, since, as many observers have noticed, public debate on many questions has developed an uncivil inflection.

In the academy, where race is the topic of discussion in almost every department of the humanities and the social sciences, controversies proliferate. We in the academy are sometimes angry, also; but even when we are not, we are adversarial, argumentative, disputatious. Our debates, too, can seem divided and divisive.

Perhaps it is time to point to some common ground.

Amy Gutmann has defended eloquently the reasonable answer to the question, Why should the government not be color blind? The reasonable answer is that the government can't be color

____________________
1
Glenn C. Loury One by One from the Inside Out (New York: Free Press, 1995) p. 102. My epigraph is preceded by these words: “Due to slavery and racial caste, there has come into existence a distinct, insular, subgroup of our society that began with severe disadvantages (in comparison to others) in the endowments of wealth, experience, and reputation so crucial to economic success. The social structural point is that for as long as one can foresee, and without regard to legal prohibitions against discrimination in formal contract, we may confidently predict the practice of informal social discrimination—that is discrimination in choice of social affiliation, which occurs along these group lines. This practice of discrimination in the social sphere implies the continuing inequality of opportunity in the economic sphere.”

-179-

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