In the compassionate yet frank meditation, two of America's leading voices on affirmative action make the convincing case that it is time for a more humane understanding of this controversial policy. Told from the richly personal and occasionally diverging perspectives of an African American man and an Asian American woman, We Won't Go Back offers an impassioned, generous vision for the policy's expansion - one that see affirmative action as a gain for all. Combining personal memoir, careful analysis, and the stories of those who have shaped the policy over the decades, Lawrence and Matsuda reveal what affirmative action has meant in real terms, in people's lives - from the communities that struggled for its initial passage to parents who fight today for their child's fair shot. In the process, the authors eloquently consider some of the policy's most divisive issues: How do African Americans feel about the judicial ascendancy of Clarence Thomas? Why have the majority of women remained silent on affirmative action? Do Asian Americans need the policy? How are issues of hate speech and political correctness tied to it? Perhaps most striking is the human face of affimative action today, which emerges radiantly from the stories gathered here. We meet Anthony Romero, a Latino raised by his immigrant parents in a Bronx housing project, now director of a prominent human rights organization; Robert Demmons, a trailblazer who successfully tackled discrimination in his local fire department; LaDoris Hazzard Cordell, the first African American woman to become a Superior Court judge in her county; and Bernadette Gross, a carpenter who rose triumphantly in a male-dominated profession. Their tales and others' force the question: Which people are in the room because of affirmative action, and what would we lose if they were no longer there? They also offer a searching reminder of those who wait outside the doors of continued exclusion. At its heart, We Won't Go Back is a deeply spiritual book that asks what it is that we, as Americans, value. Do we really wish to live in a world where there is no sense of generosity, caring, or community? The stories of abundant hope and grace in these pages answer with a resounding no.
Responding to the current wave of affirmative-action backlash, two Georgetown law professors, each proud beneficiaries of the policy, stand as zealous advocates brooking no retreat. "Our parents taught us that . . . the struggle to make a place at the table for ourselves was also the struggle to free the souls of those who would exclude us," write Lawrence (who is African-American) and Matsuda (Japanese-American) of their individual family legacies of political idealism and civil rights activism. The two authors - colleagues who are also married to each other - here form a tireless tag team to continue the relay. They alternate in writing 11 complementary essays that argue for muscular affirmative-action programs as the best tool to end the residual racial, gender, and economic subordination running through our society. As legal scholars, each is a leading proponent of an analytical perspective known as critical race theory, which documents how race, gender, and socioeconomic status shape our social and legal system, as well as our varied individual experiences navigating that system. In this book they acknowledge that overt bigotry has been rejected by our culture, but trace the unconscious prejudices that still prevail and structure access to real opportunity. What today's affirmative-action opponents want to push back, they argue, is the very effort to redistribute opportunity that is essential to dismantling institutionalized privilege of all kinds. The authors earnestly believe that attaining a freer and more just society will benefit everyone and justify the difficulty of a contentious transition. Extending the discussion beyond the combative rhetoric of reverse discrimination and racial preference, Matsuda and Lawrence have written a compassionate call to conscience, imprinted with their inspirational vision of American democracy and complex sense of a national community. But not everyone will buy into their communal vision of justice, which will remain anathema to unreconstructed rugged American individualists. (Kirkus Reviews)