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A rich, multifaceted history of affirmative action from the Civil Rights Act of 1866 through today’s tumultuous times
From acclaimed legal historian, author of a biography of Louis Brandeis - "Remarkable" (Anthony Lewis, The New York Review of Books), "Definitive" (Jeffrey Rosen, The New Republic) - and Dissent and the Supreme Court - "Riveting" (Dahlia Lithwick, The New York Times Book Review) - a history of affirmative action from its beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to the first use of the term in 1935 with the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act (the Wagner Act) to 1961 and John F. Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925, mandating that federal contractors take "affirmative action" to ensure that there be no discrimination by "race, creed, color, or national origin" down to today’s American society.
Melvin Urofsky explores affirmative action in relation to sex, gender, and education and shows that nearly every public university in the country has at one time or another instituted some form of affirmative action plan - some successful, others not.
Urofsky traces the evolution of affirmative action through labor and the struggle for racial equality, writing of World War I and the exodus that began when some six million African Americans moved northward between 1910 and 1960, one of the greatest internal migrations in the country’s history.
He describes how Harry Truman, after becoming president in 1945, fought for Roosevelt’s Fair Employment Practice Act and, surprising everyone, appointed a distinguished panel to serve as the President’s Commission on Civil Rights, as well as appointing the first black judge on a federal appeals court in 1948 and, by executive order later that year, ordering full racial integration in the armed forces.
In this important, ambitious, far-reaching audiobook, Urofsky writes about the affirmative action cases decided by the Supreme Court: cases that either upheld or struck down particular plans that affected both governmental and private entities. We come to fully understand the societal impact of affirmative action: how and why it has helped, and inflamed, people of all walks of life; how it has evolved; and how, and why, it is still needed.
“Comprehensive ... Urofsky deploys his legal expertise to great effect ... meticulously researched, honestly crafted.” (Orlando Patterson, The New York Times)
“Urofsky leads us to consider how law should best combat the legacies of racism, sexism, and ableism in order to open doors of opportunity to previously excluded groups. A thought-provoking read.” (Library Journal)
“Comprehensive ... A must-read for anyone interested in the history of affirmative action and its associated legal conundrums.” (Kirkus)
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- Steven White
Big disappointment for this author
Urofsky is both a lawyer and a historian, but a large portion of this book is on topics well outside his expertise. He notes that is conflicted about affirmative action early in the book, and in the closing chapter acknowledges that the research literature can't answer important questions that people would like to know in order to evaluate "affirmative action" yet he wrote a book that often seems like it is going to give us answers about how it works, what it does, and whether it is good. This leads him to often cites this literature in misleading ways and as if it gives definitive answers to important questions. It is too bad that more of the book doesn't focus on genuine history and law, like the chapters on on the Bakke and Defunis cases and the one that is largely about the implementation and politics of early affirmative action in CUNY. There is another good chapter, mostly filled with legal analysis of gerrymandering cases, about majority-minority districts.
An illustration of this confusing and thin reviews of the evidence: he notes, correctly, that most colleges have nearly open admissions policies, including all community colleges and that because of this affirmative action is mostly only a significant factor in top tier schools. As such it is impossible that a majority or white (or black) people are impacted by affirmative action in college admissions. Yet he later cites a study that says affirmative action tripled the number of minority (or maybe Black) students in colleges.
His own policy analysis is often vague and thin and clearly not his comparative advantage. He tells us that he personally doesn't like quotas and explains that a "goal" and "target" often just means a minimum quota. I can understand that, but few organizations use hard numerical quotas or goals. They use race as a subjective "plus" factor in hiring and admissions and his description and analysis of these problems is nearly incoherent, sometimes saying that race is just "one of many factors" and sometimes emphasizing that is it is pivotal in most cases at most top schools. "One of many factors" sounds like it isn't a big deal. Pivotal, which means that the student would not have been admitted if they were white, makes it sound like a big deal. Numbers or illustrative examples here would help us understand how these systems work, but we rarely get them, just vague handwaving.
Urofsky picked a topic that had a lot of potential, but the fact that he hasn't made up his mind and that he chose to focus on areas where has no expertise hamper the book. I can't give it more than 1 star in the current form, but if you only read the chapters mentioned above it could get 3-4. The performance by Dan Woren is solid.
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- Utilisateur anonyme
Extremely Insightful and Fairly Comprehensive
Urofsky makes his aim of remaining objective clear at the outset, and in my opinion he succeeds at showing many sides of the coin.
If you want to understand things you may not have previously considered, or if you can admit your personal perception may be skewed, this book is for you.
A must read/listen. The best book I've consumed in 2020.