Monday, March 14, 2011

Bleg: "Conservative" Scholarship on Racism in America

I'm crafting a syllabus for an anti-discrimination seminar I'll be teaching at the University of Illinois next year (focusing on race in America). I want to make sure that the course covers the full range of perspectives on the topic, which means ensuring that I give conservative scholarship its due deference.

I've already got a few pieces that are definitely in: William Van Alstyne, Rites of Passage: Race, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution, 46 U. Chi. L. Rev. 775 (1979) and Antonin Scalia, The Disease as Cure, 1979 Wash. U. L.Q. 147 as introductions to and defenses of the ideal of "colorblindness". Jim Chen's Unloving, 80 Iowa L. Rev. 145 (1994) seems like a good selection as well. I also plan on doing a unit on the race jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas, and I'm going to look into some of the work by Stephen Carter and Shelby Steele to see if any strikes me fancy.

But I want to know if there are any other important works or theorists that folks feel it is important for me to add in. The works have to be scholarly (no David Horowitz), and obviously of high academic quality. And they should bring something new to the table -- they shouldn't just be a reprise of "colorblindness = good".

So, suggestions? Have at it in the comments.


N. Friedman said...

I would think that if you want your students to learn something, have them read a few book about the success - or, perhaps, lack thereof - at the effort to desegregate the South. I have in mind, for example, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism, by Kevin Kruse. Kruse, as you perhaps are aware, is a liberal but his book is very honest and very well explains the failure of policy so that one might understand where conservatives are coming from.

My view is that it is very difficult to understand the "other side's" views from law review articles. Kruse's work is, to note, first rate and is accepted as good scholarship by people on all sides of the debate.

Moreover, without some actual historical background to provide context for the debate at hand, students are going to have no concrete situation to discuss. So, you will have conservatives say one thing and liberals another, with neither side really understanding the basis in experience over which they are debating. That is pretty much the state of public debate in the US but, as a professor, your goal ought to be to inform, not merely to expose people to the arguments - which is pretty much all that can appear in a law review article (due to space problems).

I shall try to think of some other important works of scholarship that might be helpful, assuming that you want to teach, not merely expose kids to law review articles.

Julia said...

I have no suggestions, but I'd love to see your syllabus when it's done! I could also share the syllabus for the intro astronomy course I'm teaching this summer, but unfortunately it will probably be far less interesting (did you the moon goes around the Earth??)

David Schraub said...

No, but I always suspected.

With respect to the earth rotating around the sun, might I recommend Ghostface Killah?

The sun could never be a punk. He always come out. He'll sit right there. Even if you pull your gun out. He could never run out--when the lights go out, it's Japan's turn now. The earth has spun around.

Sarah Cannon said...

I'm going to be about as helpful as Julia (only without the promise of sending a syllabus is the next year).

But if you want to include a bit of institutional theory about how laws get interpreted and enacted I recommend Kalev, A., Dobbin, F., & Kelly, E. (2006). Best Practices or Best Guesses? Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative Action and Diversity Policies. American Sociological Review, 71(4), 589 -617. doi:10.1177/000312240607100404.

(I read your post while procrastinating on my institutions final. Gotta feel connected to something, right?)

Mark said...

I have a partial suggestion. I suggest you ask Jeremy Pierce, blogging at Parableman. He's an evangelical philosophy Grad student in NY with a practical interest in race matters.

PG said...

If you want a book by an actual conservative (and an actual legal scholar) on the failures of integration, I'd recommend Stuart Buck's recent "Acting White."

However, my stronger recommendation would be for Wechsler's 1959 lecture "Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law," which is constantly cited by conservative critics of Brown v. Board, and his much lesser-known 1967 lecture "The Nationalization of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights."

For more suggestions, try the horse's mouth: