Is Racial Equality Unconstitutional?

Here is a rough draft of a book review I recently completed. I hope you all enjoy.

Is Racial Equality Unconstitutional?


Mark Golub, Is Racial Equality Unconstitutional. New York: Oxford University Press

Race is a primary factor in the United States short legal, political, and social history. It is race that has found its way into the minds of citizens, influencing and shaping their thoughts and beliefs through the cracking of a gavel in a courtroom. Mark Golub reflects on these challenges in his work, Is Racial Equality Unconstitutional?, as he traces the argument of “colorblind constitutionalism” back to Justice Harlan’s famous dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) to current debates on affirmative action. This leads to a furthered discussion of the many Supreme Court cases that emphasize a hierarchy of racial non-existence, where a protection of whiteness pervades as the illicit mechanism of the Supreme Court’s decision making, rather than an equal racial society, under the problematic color-blind doctrine.

Golub’s six chapters provide insight into the constitutional maneuvers made by the Court in Plessy that transitions to Brown v. Board of Education (1954). He structures his argument to demonstrate a description of American politics and social relations as “marked by near-universal acceptance of antiracist norms…structured by relationships of racial domination and subordination” (Golub 2018, x). Golub is interested in upending the debates of “color-blind constitutionalism” and “color-conscious constitutionalism”. Where color-blindness is essentially a forgetfulness of the draconian laws of the past, and creates racial hierarchy that color-conscious policy aims to eliminate with a confrontation of “historical and present racial injustices” (Golub 2018, 5). The worry for Golub, and readers as well, is that color-conscious policy actually has not taken into account color-blind doctrine as race-conscious due to the prohibition against racial classifications. The goal then for Golub is to demonstrate a need for racial awareness in the face of racial hierarchy in order to transform it (Golub 2018, 6). As Golub states on page 24, “My concern with color-blind constitutionalism is not that it prevents the adoption of necessary or valuable race-conscious remedies for existing inequality, but that it mobilizes its own form of white identity politics, which then is mistaken for an absence of race” (Golub 2018). This work is intriguing because it engages with race not just at a social level, but at a political and legal one. This work situates itself nicely in between race theory and legal jurisprudence, in an attempt to rid of the redemption narratives told by courts and advocates of color-blind and color-conscious, Golub wants to position his argument away from this dichotomy in order to have a discussion of “race that moves beyond color-blindness and color-consciousness” rhetoric (Golub 2018, 27). How he does such a thing is the feat of this work, by enabling discussions of Justice Harlan’s famous dissent in Plessy, “Our Constitution is color-blind”, to further engrain the color-blind logic today, in hopes of demonstrating that these principles of America’s redeemed and redeemable past only further racial supremacy “in the form of enforceable white rights” (Golub 2018, 168). Thus, racial equality is not a constitutional problem, but rather it should be the premise of what a constitution should be. In order to do such a thing we need “a decisive break from them (American values), and a re-founding upon principles of racial democracy” (Golub 2018, 168, my addition).

Golub provides a legal, and theoretically, rich argument that operates like a kaleidoscope, where the foundations are aligned in a symmetrical outline of white hierarchical structures. Golub’s work deserves to be read in this era, as it outlines an everlasting problem that is always in the background of Court rulings and leanings of the Justice’s. Is Racial Equality Unconstitutional? is a brilliant thought-provoking book that thoughtfully engages with landmark Supreme Court cases, as well as post- Civil Rights cases. This very detailed case analysis provides the reader with a pondering reflection of our country and our whiteness. This book is ideal for those interested in critical race theory, civil law, constitutional law, political science, American history, and judicial history. Ultimately, this book is a must for those interested in current domestic problems in the United States and would provide a graduate class with riveting discussions of legal perceptions and domination through white legal immunity. How fitting are the last lines of this work which call to “end the racial nightmare, and achieve our country, and change the history of the world” (Golub 2018, quoting James Baldwin, 168).



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