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Overview

In America today, the problem of achieving racial justice--whether through "color-blind" policies or through affirmative action--provokes more noisy name-calling than fruitful deliberation. In Color Conscious, K. Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann, two eminent moral and political philosophers, seek to clear the ground for a discussion of the place of race in politics and in our moral lives. Provocative and insightful, their essays tackle different aspects of the question of racial justice; together they provide a ...

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Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race

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Overview

In America today, the problem of achieving racial justice--whether through "color-blind" policies or through affirmative action--provokes more noisy name-calling than fruitful deliberation. In Color Conscious, K. Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann, two eminent moral and political philosophers, seek to clear the ground for a discussion of the place of race in politics and in our moral lives. Provocative and insightful, their essays tackle different aspects of the question of racial justice; together they provide a compelling response to our nation's most vexing problem.

Appiah begins by establishing the problematic nature of the idea of race. He draws on the scholarly consensus that "race" has no legitimate biological basis, exploring the history of its invention as a social category and showing how the concept has been used to explain differences among groups of people by mistakenly attributing various "essences" to them. Appiah argues that, while people of color may still need to gather together, in the face of racism, under the banner of race, they need also to balance carefully the calls of race against the many other dimensions of individual identity; and he suggests, finally, what this might mean for our political life.

Gutmann examines alternative political responses to racial injustice. She argues that American politics cannot be fair to all citizens by being color blind because American society is not color blind. Fairness, not color blindness, is a fundamental principle of justice. Whether policies should be color-conscious, class conscious, or both in particular situations, depends on an open-minded assessment of their fairness. Exploring timely issues of university admissions, corporate hiring, and political representation, Gutmann develops a moral perspective that supports a commitment to constitutional democracy.

Appiah and Gutmann write candidly and carefully, presenting many-faceted interpretations of a host of controversial issues. Rather than supplying simple answers to complex questions, they offer to citizens of every color principled starting points for the ongoing national discussions about race.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Appiah, a Harvard philosophy professor, and Gutmann, dean of the faculty at Princeton, add an academic gloss to two issues already much debated today: the legitimacy of the notion of "race" and whether color-blind policies can further justice in America. Appiah's sometimes ponderous philosophical excursion reminds us that the notion of race fails as a biological construct (despite contemporary efforts like The Bell Curve to prove otherwise), but he does acknowledge that race shapes social identity in America. But because America's racial groups do not necessarily share a single culture, Appiah protests, as others have, that there should not be one way to be "black" and hopes for the possibility of multiple identities and allegiances. Gutmann's essay returns us to the here and now, calling for color consciousness, which acknowledges the effects of race without assuming genetic determinism. She argues that "fairness" comes closer to justice than color-blindness, and that color-conscious policiesrather than class-conscious onescan address the effects of race. Gutmann makes a distinction between "affirmative action" and more regrettable "preferential treatment" that may be disputed; she does acknowledge that color-consciousness today aims to achieve a future color-blind society. (Nov.)
Henry Louis Gates
Without dogma or cant, two of our most challenging and clear-eyed public philosophers explore the real meanings of culture and identity. An invaluable resource for all who want to think responsibly about the racial dilemmas facing our nation. -- Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Boston Globe
Gutmann's essay shines with a brilliance of analysis worthy of widespread attention.
— James O. Freedman
Washington Post Book World
Despite tremendous ongoing discussion of racial issues in this country, American opinions about race remain contentious and nowhere near a national consensus. . .Each co-author devotes one-half of the book to his or her efforts to bring insight and illumination to what is an often gloomy conversation.
Boston Globe - James O. Freedman
Gutmann's essay shines with a brilliance of analysis worthy of widespread attention.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 1997 Ralph J. Bunche Award, American Political Science Association

Named an Outstanding Book by the Gustavus Meyers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America for 1998

Winner of the 1997 Book Award of the North American Society for Social Philosophy

"Gutmann's essay shines with a brilliance of analysis worthy of widespread attention."—James O. Freedman, Boston Globe

"Despite tremendous ongoing discussion of racial issues in this country, American opinions about race remain contentious and nowhere near a national consensus. . .Each co-author devotes one-half of the book to his or her efforts to bring insight and illumination to what is an often gloomy conversation."Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400822096
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/16/1998
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Course Book
  • Pages: 200
  • File size: 237 KB

Meet the Author

Kwame Anthony Appiah

Kwame Anthony Appiah, the president of the PEN American Center, is the author of The Ethics of Identity, Thinking It Through: An Introduction to Contemporary Philosophy, The Honor Code and the prize-winning Cosmopolitanism.
Raised in Ghana and educated in England, he has taught philosophy on three continents and is currently a professor at Princeton University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Context of Race DAVID B. WILKINS 3
Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections K. ANTHONY APPIAH 30
Part 1. Analysis. Against Races 30
Part 2. Synthesis: For Racial Identities 74
Responding to Racial Injustice AMY GUTMANN 106
Part 1. Why Question the Terms of Our Public Debate? 108
Part 2. Must Public Policy Be Color Blind? 118
Part 3. Should Public Policy Be Class Conscious Rather than Color Conscious? 138
Part 4. Why Not Aim for Proportional Representation by Race? 151
Part 5. What's Morally Relevant about Racial Identity? 163
Epilogue K. ANTHONY APPIAH 179
Index 185
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