In this provocative and paradigm-shifting book, Richard D. Kahlenberg argues that affirmative action programs ought to be based not on race but on class. America's exclusive focus on race in determining how to allocate economic and educational opportunities has served only to undermine the moral legitimacy of affirmative action, the results clearly visible in the growing public sentiment to abolish such programs.Kahlenberg shows that it is time to return to affirmative action's roots, so that it works to the benefit of the truly disadvantaged, regardless of race. In a sweeping and damning analysis, Kahlenberg examines how the rationale for affirmative action has moved inexorably away from its original commitment to remedy past discrimination and instead has become a means to achieve racial diversity, even if that means giving preference to upper-middle-class blacks over poor whites. He outlines how a class-based system of affirmative action would work, why all Americans should embrace it, and how the African-American community in particular would continue to reap the benefits it needs without engendering resentment among whites.
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(229mm x 152mm x 24mm)
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
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US Kirkus Review »
A workmanlike case for class-based affirmative action that offers few solutions to the program's many problematic aspects. Race-based affirmative action is an easy target lately, and Kahlenberg (who formerly taught law at George Washington Univ.) does a decent job of shooting it down. He rates its success and failure on a number of counts: Has it, for instance, provided genuine equality of opportunity? Has it advanced us toward the long-term goal of a color-blind society? According to Kahlenberg, race-based affirmative action has achieved middling to failing grades in these and other measures of its effectiveness. What he proposes in its stead is that we continue to give preference to the disadvantaged, but that we define disadvantage in purely socioeconomic terms. This would be an answer to the oft-raised question, Why should a wealthy African-American be given preference over a poor white? At the same time, argues Kahlenberg, class-based affirmative action would continue to be advantageous to blacks, who make up a disproportionately large segment of America's poor. But while his proposal would solve one problem of the present system, Kahlenberg inadequately laddresses other questions. For example, at what point is it too late to create equal opportunity for an individual? Can past wrongs be remedied by placing people in situations that are too difficult for them to handle? And who's going to pay for all this? Kahlenberg wants private universities to take less qualified candidates, offer them remedial and summer courses to catch them up, and have the government foot the bill for their tuition, etc. But wouldn't the money would be better spent in the public school system, so that poorer students wouldn't be so far behind in the first place? Not likely to make any converts; in fact, the author's failure to provide reasonable answers to the many questions he raises may push a few fence-sitters over to the other side. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Richard D. Kahlenberg
Richard D. Kahlenberg, a fellow of the Center for National Policy, has been a visiting associate professor of law at George Washington University and a legislative assistant to Senator Charles S. Robb of Virginia.