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Racial Culture

A Critique

Richard T. Ford

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Description

What is black culture? Does it have an essence? What do we lose and gain by assuming that it does, and by building our laws accordingly? This bold and provocative book questions the common presumption of political multiculturalism that social categories such as race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality are defined by distinctive cultural practices.

Richard Ford argues against law reform proposals that would attempt to apply civil rights protections to "cultural difference." Unlike many criticisms of multiculturalism, which worry about "reverse discrimination" or the erosion of core Western cultural values, the book's argument is primarily focused on the adverse effects of multicultural rhetoric and multicultural rights on their supposed beneficiaries.

In clear and compelling prose, Ford argues that multicultural accounts of cultural difference do not accurately describe the practices of social groups. Instead these accounts are prescriptive: they attempt to canonize a narrow, parochial, and contestable set of ideas about appropriate group culture and to discredit more cosmopolitan lifestyles, commitments, and values.

The book argues that far from remedying discrimination and status hierarchy, "cultural rights" share the ideological presuppositions, and participate in the discursive and institutional practices, of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Ford offers specific examples in support of this thesis, in diverse contexts such as employment discrimination, affirmative action, and transracial adoption.

This is a major contribution to our understanding of today's politics of race, by one of the most distinctive and important young voices in America's legal academy.

Publishers Weekly Review

Nov 01, 2004 – A serious work of legal scholarship about race that's innovative, bracing and funny? Stanford law professor Ford pulls it off in a surprising, rigorous volume that should send academics, legal professionals, civil rights activists and others dedicated to social justice racing for both sides of the barricades. Assembling a small library of case studies and legal research, along with relevant hypothetical scenarios, sophisticated analyses of popular culture and a careful dissection of multiculturalism, Ford makes a bold argument against the liberal emphasis on diversity and cultural rights from a position that is, as he puts it, "deep in the left wing of the palace." Ford argues that attempts to secure legal recognition for cultural difference—an African-American employee's right to wear her hair in cornrows, for instance—result in what he calls a "difference discourse" that is actually counterproductive, forcing minority groups to accept the very stereotypes they were trying to oppose by celebrating diversity. To counter this, Ford argues for greater "cosmopolitanism," wherein we promote "fluidity and movement through and between social distinctions and cultural practices." What keeps Ford's iconoclasm from becoming taxing is his refreshing irreverence: jokes abound about ironic postmodernists, civil rights for dog owners, the Log Cabin Republicans and his own fondness for a good martini. Agree with it or not, this book is an invigorating pleasure for thoughtful readers.
Racial Culture
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  • $18.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Law
  • Published: Jan 10, 2009
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Seller: Princeton University Press
  • Print Length: 248 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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