A well-organized, revealing outline of the “reign of White Men’s Law” in America and a forceful call for ongoing reform.

WHITE MEN'S LAW

THE ROOTS OF SYSTEMIC RACISM

A constitutional law scholar surveys the formal and informal structures that perpetuated discrimination and violence against African Americans from the Colonial era to the present day.

In the prologue, Irons examines the 1935 lynching of Rubin Stacy—a young Black man whose killers, among them a sheriff, went free despite abundant evidence against them—as a frame for his long-term consideration of systemic racism in the U.S. Subsequent chapters analyze representative examples of racially motivated injustices, key legal and political battles over civil rights, and evolving efforts to identify and combat institutional biases. In the epilogue, Irons offers trenchant reflections on the Trump presidency and its ties to White supremacist ideology as well as the significance of recent cases of police misconduct and the rise of Black Lives Matter. Among the author’s strengths are his skillful use of primary sources, which ground his own commentary in each chapter, and his lucid explanations of the complex dynamics of landmark court cases. The author’s expansive view of American legal history makes it possible for Irons to make striking connections between the discriminatory practices of different eras—as in, for instance, his accounts of the history of efforts to restrict voting rights or enforce racial segregation. The book is most compelling when the author draws out, with the help of other relevant scholarship, some of the most important ways such practices have reverberated both psychologically and socially. In bringing his story to a close, Irons argues persuasively that “the effects of systemic racism” constitute “a continuing national crisis” which can be felt in “education, employment, life expectancy, and access to healthcare.”

A well-organized, revealing outline of the “reign of White Men’s Law” in America and a forceful call for ongoing reform.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-19-091494-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A timely contribution to the discussion of a crucial issue.

THE FIGHT TO VOTE

A history of the right to vote in America.

Since the nation’s founding, many Americans have been uneasy about democracy. Law and policy expert Waldman (The Second Amendment: A Biography, 2014, etc.), president of New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, offers a compelling—and disheartening—history of voting in America, from provisions of the Constitution to current debates about voting rights and campaign financing. In the Colonies, only white male property holders could vote and did so in public, by voice. With bribery and intimidation rampant, few made the effort. After the Revolution, many states eliminated property requirements so that men over 21 who had served in the militia could vote. But leaving voting rules to the states disturbed some lawmakers, inciting a clash between those who wanted to restrict voting and those “who sought greater democracy.” That clash fueled future debates about allowing freed slaves, immigrants, and, eventually, women to vote. In 1878, one leading intellectual railed against universal suffrage, fearing rule by “an ignorant proletariat and a half-taught plutocracy.” Voting corruption persisted in the 19th century, when adoption of the secret ballot “made it easier to stuff the ballot box” by adding “as many new votes as proved necessary.” Southern states enacted disenfranchising measures, undermining the 15th Amendment. Waldman traces the campaign for women’s suffrage; the Supreme Court’s dismal record on voting issues (including Citizens United); and the contentious fight to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which “became a touchstone of consensus between Democrats and Republicans” and was reauthorized four times before the Supreme Court “eviscerated it in 2013.” Despite increased access to voting, over the years, turnout has fallen precipitously, and “entrenched groups, fearing change, have…tried to reduce the opportunity for political participation and power.” Waldman urges citizens to find a way to celebrate democracy and reinvigorate political engagement for all.

A timely contribution to the discussion of a crucial issue.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1648-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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