Chapter 4 Critical Race Theory and Education: History, Theory, and Implications

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In 1993 President Clinton nominated Professor Lani Guinier of the University of Pennsylvania Law School to be assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Rights Division. Her nomination for this government post resulted in a large con-troversy centering on her scholarship (Guinier, 1991a, 1991b). Guinier's research, which examined voting systems, asked the following question: Are there factors that guarantee winners and losers? She contended that such factors do exist and that race is too often an important factor in the construction of voting districts, the outcome of elections, and ultimately political influence, including the control of educational systems. Guinier (1989) argued that the political system must be rejuvenated to be more inclusive. Specifically, she called for the creation of electoral schemes that would allow Blacks to elect candidates representing their interests. These schemes-proportional voting, in particular-were already a reality in many south-ern localities and had received endorsement from the Reagan-Bush Justice Department and the Supreme Court. Professor Guinier also was critical of political bargaining between leading civil rights groups, African American politicians, and Republicans that resulted in the construction of guaranteed African American leg-islative districts and conservative White districts in adjacent jurisdictions. Guinier's position sparked great controversy among both liberals and conservatives. In the epilogue of Racial Formation in the United States, Omi and Winant (1994) posited that this controversy had little to do with Guinier's position on the issue of voting districts; rather, her "sin" was her eagerness to discuss the changing dimen-sions of race in contemporary U.S. politics. Omi and Winant (1994) remarked: Guinier's recognition that, in the post-civil rights era as previously, racial injustice still operates, that it has taken on new forms, and that it needs to be opposed if democracy is to advance, in our view located her in a far more realistic position. Guinier understood the flexibility of racial identities and I would like to thank Michael Apple (editor) and Gloria Ladson-Billings (editorial consultant) for their feedback on this chapter. Also, a special thanks to Carl Grant, Ron Jetty, Kimberly Tate, and Jessica Trubek for their valuable assistance with this project.

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  • William F Tate Iv

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