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Survey: Truth To Power

Publication Date: 
June 01, 2008
The New York Times
Lorrie Moore

The New York Times Book Review references Professor Richard Thompson Ford's book "The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse" in a writers' survey about which book they would recommend for the presidential candidates. In this context Orlando Patterson points out:

Every Tom, Dick and Harry, every journalist facing fading ratings, every politician bent on substituting rhetoric for action, is calling for a conversation on race. These attempts invariably fail, or make matters worse. That’s because, as Richard Thompson Ford, a law professor at Stanford, shows in his incisively argued work “The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse,” the rituals of racial transaction in America are too often plagued by people playing the race card. Blacks do it too often; but so do whites. What’s worse, as we have witnessed in the primary campaigns, both sides accuse the other of playing it. What’s really going on? It is imperative that the candidates find out, if only to make sure they don’t do it, and that they recognize it when opponents and advisers play this corrosive game. Ford’s book excavates this “national patois,” as he calls it, and shows how dangerous and short-sighted it can be, as well as the ways in which it distorts good policy aimed at helping the minority poor. Senator McCain, who recently revisited the Katrina disaster with refreshing candor, will find Ford’s critique of the use of the race card by black leaders of interest; Clinton will find much to contemplate in his chapters on racism by analogy and profiling; and Obama, a former constitutional lawyer, will surely be intrigued by Ford’s ingenious defense of affirmative action.