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Fresh Takes on Law, IQ and Race

Fresh Takes on Law, IQ and Race
New Scholarly Books

Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory
Francisco Valdes, Jerome McCristal Culp and Angela P. Harris, eds.
Temple University Press, 2002, 528 pp., $79.50 cloth, $29.95 paper
ISBN 1-56639-929-7 (cloth)
ISBN 1-56639-930-0 (paper)

When the eminent legal scholar Derrick Bell left Harvard Law School in 1992, worn down by the school’s refusal to hire faculty of color and its rejection of his attempts to infuse race into the study of constitutional law, few suspected that his departure would spark a movement. The movement is known as “critical race theory,” dedicated to no less a proposition than that of transforming the legal community’s understanding of race and the law.

Critical race theorists — whose work entered the mainstream with the acclaim heaped on the work of Derrick Bell and Patricia Williams — have unsettled the academy and the media by claiming that American law, both in its procedures and its substance, are structured to maintain White supremacy. Indeed, they maintain that the law’s much-vaunted neutrality and objectivity are not just unattainable ideals, they are harmful fictions that cloak the role of the law in subverting racial equity and ensuring White privilege.

For daring to point out what to some is obvious — to others unthinkable — critical race theorists have been bashed as the “lunatic fringe” of academia, excoriated for encouraging “Black separateness” and anti-Semitism, called out by the Toronto Sun as “the most embarrassing trend in American publishing.”

Born in the hard times of the Reagan years, the movement has come of age in even harder times, as is documented by the 24 new essays in Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory. The writers — a distinguished and multiethnic group of legal scholars, from Derrick Bell and Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to Mari Matsuda and Francisco Valdes — describe critical race theory’s struggle to be born, to survive and to thrive amid social and political foes that are growing increasingly sophisticated, monied and dedicated to driving race theory from the academy and from all public discourse.

In searing and often elegantly written essays, the theorists in this volume tackle the big issues — impersonal forces such as immigration, globalization, colonialism, and personal ones such as disability, color, “queer” identity and the family — to explain how racialized thinking permeates both national consciousness and national discourse. The volume certainly offers much material for another conservative broadside against critical race theory, but by speaking their truth — and speaking it elegantly — this collection of “outsider” academics has offered a telling and important contribution to the future.

Francisco Valdes is professor of law at the University of Miami; Jerome McCristal Culp is a professor of law at Duke University; Angela P. Harris is professor of law at the University of California-Berkeley.

— Reviewed by Kendra Hamilton


Black Students in the Ivory Tower: African American
Student Activism at the University of Pennsylvania, 1967-1990
Dr. Wayne Glasker
University of Massachusetts Press, 2002, 238 pp., $34.95
ISBN: 1-55849-322-0

Black Students in the Ivory Tower describes the circumstances surrounding the University of Pennsylvania’s decision to increase its Black enrollment in the late 1960s and early ’70s and the consequences that followed. Focusing on the role of Black student activism, Glasker traces the trajectory of controversy and debate over such issues as assimilation, integration, Black nationalism and cultural pluralism.

Glasker is an associate professor of history and director of the African American Studies Program at Rutgers University.

Race in Mind: Race, IQ,
and Other Racisms
By Alexander Alland Jr.
Palgrave MacMillan, 2002,
219 pp., $26.95
ISBN: 0-312-23838-X

Anthropologist Alexander Alland offers a comprehensive review of the recent history of research on race and IQ, offering critiques of the biological determinism of a number of theorists including Carlton Coon, William Shockley, Leonard Jeffries and others. He explains the basis of evolutionary genetics for the general reader and concludes that biologically, “race” cannot explain human variation.

Alland is the former chair of the anthropology department at Columbia University.

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