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Culture Books


Civil rights and wrongs

Fighting racism requires more than simplistic solutions

What to do about race may be America's most vexing problem. In the name of affirmative action, business and government elites have implemented a new racism, turning the workplace into a racial spoils system. In The Diversity Machine Frederick Lynch, a scholar at Claremont McKenna College, dissects what he warns is a movement and not a mere fad.

Diversity campaigns are like so many other policies imposed or pushed by government. Observes Mr. Lynch: &quotAlthough there is still no systematic proof that diversity management programs decrease ethnic and gender tensions while increasing profits, productivity, and creativity, the policies nonetheless roll forward." His critique is measured, but nonetheless damaging: &quotIn addition to mixing useful and dubious management and educational tools, the diversity machine indiscriminately blends social science and ideology, serious substance with silly platitudes. Often it is easy to tell the difference; sometimes it is not. Therein lies one of many dangers."

Yet as much as we should set as our goal a truly colorblind society, we should never forget how difficult it may be to achieve. Former federal Circuit Court Judge Leon Higginbotham has produced a disturbing look at the way American law enshrined the doctrine of black inferiority from colonial times on. His policy prescriptions--affirmative action, racial gerrymandering, social welfare--are not answers, but Shades of Freedom provides a useful reminder as to the pervasive role of racism in our society.

Andrew Young, former civil-rights activist, Atlanta mayor, and U.N. ambassador, provides his account of the heroic struggle to give blacks equal rights in America. An Easy Burden spins a compelling tale of a movement that required real moral courage to support.

Another challenging read comes from Ellis Cose, a New York journalist. In Color-Blind, he looks at why the transition away from a Jim Crow society has been so difficult. There is much with which to disagree in his book, but not his conclusion &quotthat we have no choice but to try to achieve" our traditional ideals of &quotliberty, justice, and equality."