Notes of a Racial Caste Baby: Color Blindness and the End of Affirmative Action

Bryan K. Fair, Author New York University Press $65 (211p) ISBN 978-0-8147-2651-8
Last month, California voters passed proposition 209, thereby effectively ending affirmative action in that state. What, one wonders, would have happened to Fair, now a black academic at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, had it passed a decade ago? In his first book, a lively but sometimes disconnected report that is by implication at least, to be a response to Stephen Carter's Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby, Fair draws on both his training as a law professor and his experiences as the eighth of 10 children born to a single mother on public assistance in Columbus, Ohio. Fair grew up eating bread and sugar sandwiches when the food stamps ran out, but he beat the odds with a combination of supportive mentors and his own determination. He attended Duke University and UCLA law school in the wake of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the 1978 Supreme Court decision which outlawed fixed racial quotas but permitted schools to consider race, among other factors, in admissions. Encapsulating court rulings and historical anecdotes with the details of his own struggle, Fair shows how racially sensitive policies can give disadvantaged minorities a leg up in a society where the best jobs go to the best educated students. ""I was a special admit student at Duke, one of the new students --black as well as white--from around the country that would bring greater diversity to the class of 1982,"" reports Fair, who notes that though he had almost all A's in high school, his SAT scores ""were far below Duke's median."" Fair adroitly combines legal and personal history but the book is sometimes marred by an excessively polemical tone. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 238 pages - 978-0-8147-2652-5
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