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Notes of a Racial Caste Baby

Color Blindness and the End of Affirmative Action

Bryan Fair

Publication Year: 1997

The Constitution of the United States, writes Bryan Fair, was a series of compromises between white male propertyholders: Southern planters and Northern merchants. At the heart of their deals was a clear race-conscious intent to place the interests of whites above those of blacks.

In this provocative and important book, Fair, the eighth of ten children born to a single mother on public assistance in an Ohio ghetto, combines two histories--America's and his own- -to offer a compelling defense of affirmative action. How can it be, Fair asks, that, after hundreds of years of racial apartheid during which whites were granted 100% quotas to almost all professions, we have now convinced ourselves that, after a few decades of remedial affirmative action, the playing field is now level? Centuries of racial caste, he argues, cannot be swept aside in a few short years.

Fair ambitiously surveys the most common arguments for and against affirmative action. He argues that we must distinguish between America in the pre-Civil Rights Movement era--when the law of the land was explicitly anti-black--and today's affirmative action policies--which are decidedly not anti- white. He concludes that the only just and effective way in which to account for America's racial past and to negotiate current racial quagmires is to embrace a remedial affirmative action that relies neither on quotas nor fiery rhetoric, but one which takes race into account alongside other pertinent factors.

Championing the model of diversity on which the United States was purportedly founded, Fair serves up a personal and persuasive account of why race-conscious policies are the most effective way to end de facto segregation and eliminate racial caste.

Table of Contents

A Note to the Reader
Acknowledgments
Preface: Telling Stories
Recasting Remedies as Diseases
Color-Blind Justice
The Design of This Book
Pt. 1. A Personal Narrative
Not White Enough
Dee
Black Columbus
Racial Poverty
Man-Child
Colored Matters
Coded Schools
Busing
Going Home
Equal Opportunity
The Character of Color
Diversity as One Factor
The Deception of Color Blindness
Pt. 2. White Privilege and Black Despair: The Origins of Racial Caste in America
The Declaration of Inferiority
Marginal Americans
Inventing American Slavery
The Road to Constitutional Caste
Losing Second-Class Citizenship
Reconstruction and Sacrifice
Separate and Unequal
The Color Line
Critiquing Color Blindness
Pt. 3. The Constitutionality of Remedial Affirmative Action
The Origins of Remedial Affirmative Action
The Court of Last Resort
The Invention of Reverse Discrimination
The Politics of Affirmative Action: Myth or Reality?
Racial Realism
Eliminating Caste
Afterword
Notes
Index

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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A Note to The Reader

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pp. ix-xii

Most Americans think their government is the best in the world. Each of its branches—legislative, executive, and judicial—is an essential component of the Constitution established by the states more than two centuries ago. Then, after the Civil War, compromises regarding the...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xiv

I his book would not have been possible without the generous support of many people, especially colleagues and friends at the University of Alabama School of Law. I am grateful to Dean Kenneth Randall, former Dean Nat Hansford, and the Alabama Law Foundation for generous...

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Preface: Telling Stories

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pp. xv-xxvi

I am the eighth of ten children of a single mother, born in a black ghetto in Columbus, Ohio, in 1960. Since my siblings are close in age—the youngest within fifteen years of the oldest—we lived at home at the same time for a significant period. My mother sometimes had two jobs...

Part One: A Personal Narrative

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Not White Enough

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pp. 1-5

I have lived in Ohio, North Carolina, California, and Alabama. In each place, most blacks, whites, and other minorities live separate lives. Most blacks are poor and live in isolated, self-contained slums. They attend segregated schools that are poorly funded, overcrowded, and in need of...

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Dee

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pp. 6-9

My mother, known as Dee, was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1929, the oldest of five children, in the midst of the Great Depression. The crash of the stock market was only a prelude to a general collapse of the American economy. As many as fifteen million Americans were unemployed...

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Black Columbus

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pp. 9-13

The dangers of racial caste in America are real and growing worse. By the time I was born, in 1960, all of Ohio's earlier official racist policies had been repealed, but racial caste remained nevertheless: inadequate food, clothing, and shelter; substandard schools, illiteracy, and high dropout...

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Racial Poverty

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pp. 14-19

In Columbus, race is largely a proxy for economic status. Some blacks in the city belong to the middle class and have gone to college and perhaps graduate or professional school. A handful of black doctors and lawyers have practices, and some blacks operate small businesses, on Mount...

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Man-Child

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pp. 20-26

Being poor, hungry, and on welfare did not make me idle or dependent. I was never lazy, and I was dependent only when I was a child. Instead, racial poverty drove me to work hard to escape it. In any case, work was not optional; it was a matter of survival. I began working at age seven...

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Colored Matters

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pp. 26-29

In the first grade, when I got into a fight at Deschler Elementary School, I began to learn that being classified as "black" mattered. Deschler was located in what then was a racially mixed, working-class community in southeast Columbus. The school was likewise mixed, with six out of ten...

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Coded Schools

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pp. 29-33

I started public school in 1965, a decade after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Over the next twelve years, I attended four racially identifiable public schools: Deschler (mixed), Fairwood Elementary (black), Johnson Park Junior...

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Busing

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pp. 33-39

In the spring, Mrs. Thompson told several of us about a voluntary busing plan that would enable some black children from the east side to attend selected, predominantly white, junior high schools, in our case Johnson Park. She explained that the new school might have better resources and...

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Going Home

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pp. 40-46

During my last year at Johnson Park, when I was in my neighborhood, I usually could be found at Effley and Maurice Brooks's house. They lived with their mother and stepfather behind Doug's house on Fairwood Avenue. Doug had introduced me to them, and I had become friends...

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Equal Opportunity

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pp. 47-53

During my final year of high school, I visited my counselor, Mr. Webb, to discuss colleges. I was interested in four schools: Harvard, Duke, Howard, and Vanderbilt. Harvard was my first choice because, well, because it was Harvard and because Aaron had gone there two years earlier. Howard...

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The Character of Color

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pp. 54-56

My college experiences also showed me that white students "belonged" at Duke in ways that blacks did not. I don't know whether the white students at Duke were aware of the racial privileges they enjoyed there. Most of them probably never heard anyone say that they were at Duke...

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Diversity as One Factor

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pp. 56-60

Ever since I realized I would not be a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, I have wanted to become a lawyer. I did not know many lawyers in Columbus, but several were active in local politics and were often in the news. Dee had a friend who was a lawyer who sometimes...

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The Deception of Color Blindness

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pp. 60-66

Suppose there was a national vote in the United States in which you were asked to honor the following pledge: "I shall never tolerate in my life or in the life or practices of my government the differential treatment of other human beings by race. I shall never treat any person less well than...

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Part Two: White Privelage and Black Despair: The Origins of Racial Caste in America

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes's aphorism that "a page of history is worth a volume of logic"1 has particular relevance to an examination of racial caste in the United States. American history provides a variety of reasons for repudiating tales of equality, myths about a color-blind tradition...

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The Declaration of Inferiority

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pp. 68-71

Americans rarely talk candidly about their racial attitudes. In fact, whiteness is almost never examined and evaluated in the way that blackness has been. A person from another planet who read America's papers, watched its television programs, or attended its schools might well believe...

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Marginal Americans

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pp. 71-74

American history texts have traditionally treated the early status of blacks and the establishment of slavery as historical asides. Such books rush through the British colonies and the new settlements at Roanoke, Jamestown, or Plymouth, describing the early white settlers, their hardships...

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Inventing American Slavery

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pp. 74-81

The racial history of blacks and whites in what is now the United States includes so many shocking episodes that it is little wonder that some historians have tried to gloss over it. It is beyond the scope of this book to describe the capture of each slave, the conditions on the slave ships...

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The Road to Constitutional Caste

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pp. 81-91

Probably most Americans do not know the story of Crispus Attucks or why his life and death exemplified one of the great ironies of our constitutional history. Attucks, a runaway slave, had worked for twenty years as a seaman in Boston. In March 1770, British soldiers fired on several colonists...

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Losing Second-Class Citizenship

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pp. 91-96

After the ratification of the Constitution in 1791, overt, government-sponsored or -sanctioned racial discrimination was the rule for most blacks living in the United States. Then, in the mid-1960s, the civil rights movement forced the federal government to address institutionalized...

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Reconstruction and Sacrifice

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pp. 96-101

After the war over slavery, the United States again had an opportunity to reject racial preferences for whites and to promote racial equality. For a time it appeared that the postwar government, led by a number of powerful whites such as Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner95 and a...

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Separate and Unequal

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pp. 101-103

As bad as these developments were, worse was yet to come. In 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of state laws mandating racial separation. Homer Plessy had challenged the constitutionality of a Louisiana statute requiring separate railway cars for...

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The Color Line

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pp. 103-109

In 1903, W. E. B. Du Bois, correctly prophesying the rigid segregation that arose in the United States after Plessy, wrote that "the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line—the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and...

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Critiquing Color Blindness

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pp. 109-114

Numerous others have set forth competing critiques of the color blindness principle. Indeed, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the issue split leading legal scholars.144 Since then, each side has tried to explain why color blindness is or is not good policy. Some people insist that color...

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Part Three: The Constitutionality of Remedial Affirmative Action

Now that I have explained, using both personal and historical reasons, why remedial affirmative action is effective and justifiable and why color blindness will extend white privilege into the next century, I want to show why remedial affirmative action does not violate people's constitutional...

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The Origins of Remedial Affirmative Action

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pp. 115-120

Modern remedial affirmative action began in response to widespread racial discrimination in employment.2 In the 1930s and 1940s, when my mother Dee was a child, there were white jobs and black jobs, just as there were white schools, churches, and communities and black schools...

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The Court of Last Resort

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pp. 120-128

As remedial affirmative action policies were extended within employment and to other areas, including education, political participation, and housing programs, the opposition also grew, scholarly criticism mounted, and judicial opinions split, requiring the Supreme Court to step in. As the...

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The Invention of Reverse Discrimination

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pp. 128-149

If Bakke was a victim, it was not of racial discrimination, but of a history of racial privilege for white males who still disproportionately fill American medical schools. To Bakke and others like him, I say, don't blame contemporary African Americans; instead, blame whites from previous...

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The Politics of Affirmative Action: Myth or Reality?

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pp. 150-168

For the past three decades, federal affirmative action programs have run the gamut from outreach and hortatory efforts to encourage federal agencies and contractors to use minority- or women-owned businesses to specific mandates to hire women and minorities consistent with stated...

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Racial Realism

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pp. 168-172

Statistical disparities in the United States between blacks and whites still mirror those reported by the Kerner Commission in 1968: we remain a nation of "two societies, one black, one white-separate and unequal." And even though there are many causes of the disparities in the lives of...

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Eliminating Caste

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pp. 172-176

Remedial affirmative action arose in response to America's sordid history and tradition of white racial privilege. Because it is remedial in nature, it is not constitutionally equivalent to past policies promoting white supremacy. Moreover, the Supreme Court has said numerous times that the...

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Afterword

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pp. 177-184

Because my family still lives in Columbus, I visit several times a year. Family gatherings today are happy, festive times. Dee no longer works but spends much of her time visiting her family. She has nearly two dozen grandchildren and a half-dozen great-grandchildren. My siblings...

Notes

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pp. 185-208

Index

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pp. 209-212

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814727980
E-ISBN-10: 0814727980
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814726518
Print-ISBN-10: 0814726518

Page Count: 211
Publication Year: 1997