Randall Kennedy Demands Reflection on Emotion on Race

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Kennedy is someone who meticulously resists emotion rather than thinking, and that’s why he’s largely “Say It Loud!” It’s not a book that most people would be inclined to go on vacation with. For example, Brown v. The history and aftermath of the Board of Education are eye-opening topics for any genuine understanding of America’s racial history—a touch of just over 1 percent of the world’s Black children, as Kennedy noted 10 years after the 1954 decision. South went to school with whites. However, the various articles in this book provide a detail on this case that few beyond historians and legal scholars are likely to be prepared for.

In general, despite the title of the book, Kennedy is not someone who says things “loudly,” unlike James Brown. One time in the book he even begins to do that is when he imagines how he would feel if he came across a monument to the unpolished bigoted Woodrow Wilson: “I would smile at him and shout happily: Now my people!” and “yelling gladly”) there is a certain starch that brings us back to an extremely moderate writer.

Kennedy even gives a hint of what some call thunder, only by his unwavering acidity against Clarence Thomas. Kennedy once wrote a masterful critique of the foundations of critical race theory, and predictably got a little excited about it. To be familiar with his work is to miss that piece here. Technically, it appeared too long ago to qualify for the roughly 20-year span of these articles (although one of them is based on a piece that came out earlier). I can’t help wondering if Kennedy skipped the article out of concern that some right-wing elements might find it useful in today’s “CRT” debate. If this is accompanied by a judgment about that passage that Kennedy told from his Harvard Law professor, Derrick Bell, which was what prompted Kennedy to avoid compiling this article, then the decision (1) was taken into account, but (2) certainly not “out loud”.

Finally, “Say it Loud!” While it’s not always exciting to read, Kennedy is the kind of writer who makes you feel like he’s always right in the end. Is the 2021 race different from the 1961 race only in terms of courtesy? “The New Jim Crow”? Such ideas can seem electric, and when combined with a sense of justice, they can be as irresistible as they are fantastic. Kennedy argues otherwise: “To adequately address the crises we now face requires more than Brown’s customary spells or references to “discrimination” and the “new Jim Crow.” There is little buy-in on tangible, tangible, or moral reality. We get nothing by reverting to a punitive, thoughtless Gilded Age version of social justice. At a glance, Kennedy’s view is that progress is truly happening – “we,” he says, “are beneficiaries of anti-racist struggles.” — but that further progress will require change not only in the behavior of Blacks, but also in society itself, “through future movements for improved racial equality.”

But then we must remember that Kennedy also said that he did not expect a “racial promised land” in his lifetime. It assumes that progress will be gradual, and in a sense it is relatively undramatic. And in this, as with almost everything about his views on race in America, Kennedy is both decidedly temperamental and probably right.

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