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NY Times on “Misunderstanding Racial Justice”

Jeffery Rosen covers Richard Thompson Ford, who argues that our justice system superficially handles the racial, socio-economic hierarchy of the U.S.:

In “Rights Gone Wrong,” Richard Thompson Ford, a law professor at Stanford, argues that both the progressive left and the colorblind right are guilty of the same error: defining discrimination too abstractly and condemning it too categorically, with similarly perverse results. According to Ford, the urge to condemn discrimination in all its forms — a legacy of the civil rights movement — has led people on the left and the right to reject “reasonable, prudent and innocent distinctions.” It has also led activists, judges and government officials to concentrate on eliminating even trivial forms of discrimination at the expense of more effective means to social justice, like expanding economic opportunities for the poor.

Ford does not offer an equivocal, cautious, middle-of-the-road critique of civil rights law. His book is sharp and surprising, and casts the discrimination debate in a clarifying new light. He begins by stating that liberals took a wrong turn in the years after Brown v. Board of Education, when, following the court’s lead, they defined racial justice as the elimination of psychological indignities, like “stigmatic injury, stereotypes and subjective emotional harm,” rather than remaining “focused on economic justice and the tangible evils of the American racial hierarchy.”

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