REASONING FROM RACE

REASONING FROM RACE

SERENA MAYERI
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hgr7
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  • Book Info
    REASONING FROM RACE
    Book Description:

    In the 1960s and 1970s, analogies between sex discrimination and racial injustice became potent weapons in the battle for women’s rights, as feminists borrowed rhetoric and legal arguments from the civil rights movement. Serena Mayeri’s Reasoning from Race is the first history of this key strategy and its consequences for American law.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06110-1
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ABBREVIATIONS USED IN TEXT
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    In October 2008, LaDoris Cordell was hopeful. Polls showing that Americans would likely elect the first black president buoyed Cordell, a university administrator and former judge. Her optimism extended to the likely fate of Proposition 8, a ballot measure that would prohibit same-sex marriage in California. Though she was “well aware of the black community’s discomfort with things gay,” Cordell nevertheless believed that “the African American electorate will come through” and vote against the ban.¹

    Less than a week later, Cordell felt “angry” and “betrayed.” Barack Obama had won, but so had Prop 8. Worse, many pundits attributed both victories...

  5. 1 THE REBIRTH OF RACE-SEX ANALOGIES
    (pp. 9-40)

    “The similarities of the societal positions of women and Negroes are fundamental rather than superficial,” wrote college student Florynce “Flo” Kennedy in 1946. “[A] dispassionate consideration of the economic, sociological, historical, psychological, political, and even physiological aspects reveals some rather startling parallels.” Both groups were “generally dependent economically upon the dominant group”; they were “barred from many specialized fields,” penalized more severely for “sex ‘transgressions,’” considered “naturally inferior,” and their “[i]ndividual distinctions [were] minimized.” Kennedy condemned “segregation, discrimination, and limitation” and hoped that comparing “women” and “Negroes” would “hasten the formation of alliances” and “counteract the divide-and-rule technique” endemic to...

  6. 2 “WOMEN AND MINORITIES”
    (pp. 41-75)

    In 1970, NOW President Aileen Hernandez asked Merrillee Dolan, head of the organization’s task force on Women and Poverty, to write a “critical analysis” of the Moynihan Report. “So many of his damaging notions have formed the basis of the federal policies which either ignore women altogether or actually worsen their circumstances,” Hernandez lamented.¹ She wanted Dolan to focus not on black family structure, but on “women in poverty,” and how government antipoverty programs promoted “manpower training” and jobs for men at women’s expense.² Dolan’s widely circulated critique castigated Moynihan for recommending that African Americans emulate white couples’ “equalitarian” relationships....

  7. 3 RECESSION, REACTION, RETRENCHMENT
    (pp. 76-105)

    Reasoning from race had just begun to pay dividends when economic and political upheaval threatened to obliterate the hard-won gains of “women and minorities.” The recession of 1974–1975 deepened resistance to aggressive enforcement of equal employment policies. Amid mass layoffs, white male workers clung to seniority systems, their last remnant of job security.¹ African Americans and white women protested the adverse impact of last-hired-first-fired rules. “The polarization effect cannot be underestimated,” declared Eleanor Holmes Norton from her civil rights post in New York, where budget cuts eliminated one-third to one-half of city jobs held by white women and people of...

  8. 4 REASONING FROM SEX
    (pp. 106-143)

    When she heard that the East Cleveland police department was accepting applications from prospective officers, Cuyahoga Community College student Elizabeth Smith decided to put her law enforcement coursework to use. But at 5’5” and 136 pounds, Smith did not meet the department’s requirement that officers be at least 5’8” and weigh 150 pounds. She obtained a court order and took the required written test anyway. When her score did not meet the cutoff for eligibility, city officials told Smith she could not retake the exam. With the help of feminist attorneys at the recently established Women’s Law Fund, she brought...

  9. 5 LOST INTERSECTIONS
    (pp. 144-185)

    “I’ve never felt this way about a black chick before,” Margaret Miller’s supervisor said when he appeared uninvited on her doorstep. On her first day on the job, Maxine Munford’s boss inquired whether “she would make love to a white man and if she would slap his face if he made a pass at her.” Willie Ruth Hawkin’s coworker remarked that he “wished slavery days would return so that he could sexually train her and she could be his bitch.”¹ Such treatment may have been shocking, but it was nothing new. What was new in the 1970s was that workplace...

  10. 6 THE LATE CIVIL RIGHTS ERA
    (pp. 186-224)

    In 1977, an assertive and inclusive brand of feminism was in the air. As feminists gathered for the International Women’s Year (IWY) national convention in Houston, they fought to dispel depictions of the women’s movement as monochromatic, upper middle-class, and narrow in its aspirations. First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, and Rosalynn Carter joined women from across the nation and from all walks of life. Women of color asserted their place in the feminist movement, uniting for the first time on a national scale. Overwhelming majorities of conference delegates embraced the ERA, Medicaid funding for abortion, and lesbian rights.¹...

  11. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 225-233)

    In 2008, legal scholar Richard Thompson Ford questioned popular analogies between gay rights activism and the African American civil rights struggle. “Opposition to same-sex marriage isn’t simply the 21st century’s form of racism,” he wrote. Rather, anxiety about changing sex roles was to blame. Many Americans, he suggested, “long for the kind of meaningful gender identities that traditional marriage seems to offer.” The different treatment of race and sex discrimination in law, he wrote, “reflects this ambivalence about sex difference.”¹

    Yet in the 1970s, dismantling government support for traditional sex roles within marriage was where feminists were most successful. Thanks...

  12. POSTSCRIPT
    (pp. 234-238)

    In 1985, two years after she proposed a new Human Rights Amendment to her feminist colleagues, Pauli Murray died of cancer. As Eleanor Holmes Norton wrote of Murray, “history . . . placed her just ahead of her time.”¹ Murray was always a relative outsider to the legal establishment, albeit a well-connected one. The next generation of feminist advocates joined the ranks of government and academe, acquiring power women had only dreamt of in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of those who argued, demonstrated, wrote, and cajoled decision makers during the early period later found themselves poised to make decisions...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 241-346)
  14. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 347-350)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 351-369)