Color Conscious

Color Conscious: The Political Morality of Race

K. Anthony Appiah
Amy Gutmann
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    Color Conscious
    Book Description:

    In America today, the problem of achieving racial justice--whether through "color-blind" policies or through affirmative action--provokes more noisy name-calling than fruitful deliberation. InColor Conscious, K. Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann, two eminent moral and political philosophers, seek to clear the ground for a discussion of the place of race in politics and in our moral lives. Provocative and insightful, their essays tackle different aspects of the question of racial justice; together they provide a compelling response to our nation's most vexing problem.

    Appiah begins by establishing the problematic nature of the idea of race. He draws on the scholarly consensus that "race" has no legitimate biological basis, exploring the history of its invention as a social category and showing how the concept has been used to explain differences among groups of people by mistakenly attributing various "essences" to them. Appiah argues that, while people of color may still need to gather together, in the face of racism, under the banner of race, they need also to balance carefully the calls of race against the many other dimensions of individual identity; and he suggests, finally, what this might mean for our political life.

    Gutmann examines alternative political responses to racial injustice. She argues that American politics cannot be fair to all citizens by being color blind because American society is not color blind. Fairness, not color blindness, is a fundamental principle of justice. Whether policies should be color-conscious, class conscious, or both in particular situations, depends on an open-minded assessment of their fairness. Exploring timely issues of university admissions, corporate hiring, and political representation, Gutmann develops a moral perspective that supports a commitment to constitutional democracy.

    Appiah and Gutmann write candidly and carefully, presenting many-faceted interpretations of a host of controversial issues. Rather than supplying simple answers to complex questions, they offer to citizens of every color principled starting points for the ongoing national discussions about race.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2209-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 1-2)
  3. Introduction: The Context of Race
    (pp. 3-29)

    In 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois proclaimed that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line.”¹ As we approach the end of the millennium, the accuracy of Du Bois’s prophecy is beyond dispute. Indeed, given the bitterness of the contemporary debate over such racially charged issues as affirmative action, multiculturalism, welfare reform, and crime, it is clear that the only shortcoming of Du Bois’s baleful assessment is the implication that this most American of problems might be solved in this century. Today, only someone who consciously turns his back on the multiplicity of ways that race continues...

  4. Race, Culture, Identity: Misunderstood Connections
    (pp. 30-105)

    Imagine yourself on Angel Island in the 1920s. You are helping an inquisitive immigrant from Canton to fill in an immigration form.Name, it says. You ask her name. She tells you. You write it down.Date of birth. She gives it to you (according to the Chinese calendar, of course, so you have to look up your table for translating from one system to another). Then there is an entry that saysRace. This you do not have to ask. You write “Oriental.” And your interlocutor, because she is inquisitive, asks politely: “What are you writing now?” (After all,...

  5. Responding to Racial Injustice
    (pp. 106-178)

    Racial injustice may be the most morally and intellectually vexing problem in the public life of this country.¹ How should we respond? I doubt there is a simple or single way of responding. As a political philosopher and a citizen of the United States, I develop a political morality for a society still suffering from racial injustice. My response to racial injustice in the United States need not be yours, but I hope to convince you that all citizens should respond and try to justify our responses to one another rather than wish the problem would go away or be...

  6. Epilogue
    (pp. 179-184)

    There is a great deal of angry polemic about race in this country today. Accusations of racism, warranted and unwarranted, abound.Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, welfare queens, quota queens, the bell curve—each of these conjures debates with a distasteful tone. In this respect, discussions of race are perhaps typical, since, as many observers have noticed, public debate on many questions has developed an uncivil inflection.

    In the academy, where race is the topic of discussion in almost every department of the humanities and the social sciences, controversies proliferate. We in the academy are sometimes angry, also; but even when...

  7. Index
    (pp. 185-191)