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Black History Put in Modern Perspective

Publication Date: 
February 26, 2008
The Chicago Sun-Times
Theresa Bradley for the Associated Press

The Sun-Times book editor Teresa Budasi ran an Associated Press review of Rich Ford's "The Race Card" in the "Book Room" blog:

Stanford law professor Richard Thompson Ford takes on a hot-button topic during Black History Month.


Here's a review from the Associated Press:

The fight against racism is nearing a crossroads, a ‘‘crisis of success’’ that’s blurring definitions of discrimination and allowing insidious injustices to persist unaddressed.

As the clearest cases of bigotry have faded with civil rights’ progress, our old ways of fighting bias are dangerously outdated but inspiring a host of impostors to co-opt their methods nonetheless.

In his book The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, Stanford University law professor Richard Thompson Ford outlines this new ambiguity and one of its most unfortunate results: the race card.

Drawing irrelevant references to race, the race card magnifies minority status or seeks to blame problems on bias, oversimplifying serious social issues to advance self-interest in the name of justice, Ford says.

An example: O.J. Simpson cast the cops as racist and was cleared. ‘‘The race card is symptomatic of a real crisis in the way we currently think and talk about race: a crisis born of our failure to keep up with a changing social world,’’ Ford writes. Because we assume racial wrongs are the work of individual bigots, ‘‘when there’s no one to blame, we find ourselves without relevant ideas.’’