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Pulling the Race Card From the Deck

Publication Date: 
February 29, 2008
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Peter Schmidt

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a review and excerpts of Richard Thompson Ford's book "The Race Card":

A law professor at Stanford University, Ford has taken it upon himself to analyze many of the high-profile racial controversies that have divided Americans in recent decades, mulling over the Tawana Brawley incident, the O.J. Simpson trial, and the accusations of racism surrounding the federal government's botched handling of Hurricane Katrina.

He published his assessment of race relations in America in a book, The Race Card (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), released late last month. And the conclusions he reached have been winning him praise as a fresh voice among black scholars, a critical race theorist willing to skewer the identity-politics movements of the left while challenging conservative opponents of affirmative action and those who prescribe personal responsibility as the cure for what ails black America.

His bottom-line conclusion is that many allegations of racism — as well as other forms of discrimination — are not just false but counterproductive. The behaviors the accusers attribute to discrimination are actually due to something else, usually broader societal problems. And the back and forth of accusation and denial set in motion by such discrimination complaints sidetracks discussions of how to solve bigger problems, and sometimes even keeps us from realizing those problems exist.

"The assumption is that if there is a racial inequity, there is a racist to blame for it," Ford said when interviewed at Sam's. Conversely, he said, "if there is no racist, people think there is no problem." The reality, he said, is that "we can have a lot of racial problems in our society even when there aren't any racists to blame for them."