cover image Place Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America

Place Not Race: A New Vision of Opportunity in America

Sheryll Cashin. Beacon, $25.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8070-8614-8

Georgetown University law professor and civil rights activist Cashin (The Agitator’s Daughter) makes the case for supplanting race-based affirmative action with “disadvantaged-based affirmative action.” The former, banned in eight states, is “increasingly [politically] untenable,” and has led to “optical blackness but little socioeconomic diversity.” “Place, although highly racialized,” Cashin posits, “now better captures who is disadvantaged than skin color.” Cashin sketches the legal and political history of affirmative action, and attends to both resentful whites (Obama’s “election seems to have exacerbated the perception gap about racial inequality”) and advantaged blacks (“Economic elites of all colors enjoy built-in advantages in the withering competition for spaces at choice schools).” Two alternatives receive extended attention: Amherst College, whose Dean of Admissions says “a poor white or poor Asian is every bit as attractive as a poor black or Latino kid,” and the University of Texas, which guarantees admission “to graduating seniors in the top 10 percent of every high school in the state.” Dense with statistics and peppered with autobiographical details, this long-winded, though slim volume makes a strong argument for “jettisoning race-based affirmative action” and an arguable case for attending instead to “those of any color relegated to low-opportunity environs [for whom] geography is destiny.” (May)