The Miner's Canary by Lani Guinier
Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy

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Like the canaries that alerted miners to a poisonous atmosphere, issues of race point to underlying problems in society that ultimately affect everyone, not just minorities. Addressing these issues is essential. Ignoring racial differences--race blindness--has failed. Focusing on individual achievement has diverted us from tackling pervasive inequalities. Now, in a powerful and challenging book, Lani Guinier and Gerald Torres propose a radical new way to confront race in the twenty-first century.

Given the complex relationship between race and power in America, engaging race means engaging standard winner-take-all hierarchies of power as well. Terming their concept "political race," Guinier and Torres call for the building of grass-roots, cross-racial coalitions to remake those structures of power by fostering public participation in politics and reforming the process of democracy. Their illuminating and moving stories of political race in action include the coalition of Hispanic and black leaders who devised the Texas Ten Percent Plan to establish equitable state college admissions criteria, and the struggle of black workers in North Carolina for fair working conditions that drew on the strength and won the support of the entire local community.

The aim of political race is not merely to remedy racial injustices, but to create truly participatory democracy, where people of all races feel empowered to effect changes that will improve conditions for everyone. In a book that is ultimately not only aspirational but inspirational, Guinier and Torres envision a social justice movement that could transform the nature of democracy in America.


About Lani Guinier

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Lani Guinier is Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Gerald Torres is H.O. Head Centennial Professor in Real Property Law, University of Texas Law School.
Published April 21, 2003 by Harvard University Press. 400 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Law & Philosophy, History, Nature & Wildlife, Professional & Technical, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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Guinier and Torres observe that society in general seems to have decided that the best place for those young black men, for example, is prison: “In the United States,” they note, “if young men are not tracked to college and they are black or brown, we wait for their boredom, desperation, or sense...

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The New York Times

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Poring over admissions records, minority activists discovered a startling demographic fact: 10 percent of the state's high schools usually furnished 75 percent of freshmen at the state university system's best colleges, while some West Texas counties had never sent a graduate to any of them.

Apr 21 2002 | Read Full Review of The Miner's Canary: Enlisting...

Publishers Weekly

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Arguing for a multifaceted conception of "biological race, political race, historical race, cultural race," their purpose here is to find terms for discussing "the lived experience of race in America" and for moving toward a society that values (rather than just tolerates) difference.

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