cover image Say It Loud!: On Race, Law, History and Culture

Say It Loud!: On Race, Law, History and Culture

Randall Kennedy. Pantheon, $30 (544p) ISBN 978-0-5933-1604-7

A middle path through America’s racial turmoil is mapped in these trenchant essays. Harvard Law professor Kennedy (For Discrimination) updates previously published pieces that survey hot-button issues and enduring controversies involving race and the law, including the George Floyd protests, campus movements to remove memorials to racists, moral questions surrounding Nat Turner’s bloody 1831 insurrection against Virginia slaveholders, the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education, and the tension between integrationism and separatism in Black social thought. It’s a wide-ranging volume that explores constitutional law; harrowing cases of racial oppression; pioneering figures such as Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom Kennedy clerked; the rise of “distinctively Black names”; and the influential ideas of segregationist George Wallace and Black nationalist Elijah Muhammad. Stoutly defending his centrist stance on race against excesses of the right and left, Kennedy revisits his family’s struggles with racism and tartly dismisses conservative Justice Clarence Thomas as “a Republican apparatchik skilled in bureaucratic self-promotion and the advancement of retrograde policies,” but pushes back against critical race theory in legal studies, speech restrictions (he enunciates the N-word “in full and out loud” in classroom discussions of inflammatory speech), and abolition of the police. In a time of polarized racial politics, Kennedy’s closely reasoned and humanely argued takes offer an appealing alternative. (Sept.)