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I've been looking into what I might use for an ethics class I'm teaching this summer, and I've just discovered that the Patricia Williams book I've been using is now out-of-print. So I'm hunting around for something else to put up against John McWhorter (maybe his second book on race this time around, though). Does anyone know of a good, cheap presentation of the standard issues about racial narratives? I don't want it to be long, it should be readable to someone who hasn't had an ethics class previously (though an ancient philosophy class and an early modern philosophy class are prerequisites). It needs to be a book, not an article. Unfortunately, I may have to resort to using just Naomi Zack's philosophy of race textbook, which isn't very readable (for style reasons) or detailed and is a little pricey for just two weeks of a summer class. Any alternative suggestions will be considered.


You might consider Color Conscious by Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann. The Amazon cost is $11.20 new, and the text runs a mere 200 pages. Appiah's book Identities would probably be better, but it's more expensive and much denser. I think Charles Taylor embraces the notion of authenticity and narratives. He has a book, Multiculturalism, which is probably not what you are looking for. :) I'd have said West but I don't think he addresses racial scripts at all.

From Publishers Weekly
Appiah, a Harvard philosophy professor, and Gutmann, dean of the faculty at Princeton, add an academic gloss to two issues already much debated today: the legitimacy of the notion of "race" and whether color-blind policies can further justice in America. Appiah's sometimes ponderous philosophical excursion reminds us that the notion of race fails as a biological construct (despite contemporary efforts like The Bell Curve to prove otherwise), but he does acknowledge that race shapes social identity in America. But because America's racial groups do not necessarily share a single culture, Appiah protests, as others have, that there should not be one way to be "black" and hopes for the possibility of multiple identities and allegiances. Gutmann's essay returns us to the here and now, calling for color consciousness, which acknowledges the effects of race without assuming genetic determinism. She argues that "fairness" comes closer to justice than color-blindness, and that color-conscious policies?rather than class-conscious ones?can address the effects of race. Gutmann makes a distinction between "affirmative action" and more regrettable "preferential treatment" that may be disputed; she does acknowledge that color-consciousness today aims to achieve a future color-blind society.

I actually have that book and was considering it as an intro to the issues about the metaphysics of race. I've never read any of it, so I didn't know it included this other stuff too. If it can serve both purposes, that's even better. I've read parts of Appiah's earlier In My Father's House, and I'm just beginning work on a paper on the issue of the metaphysics of race. I was thinking Color Consciousness was better because it has two people's perspectives, but with this I might be able to get away with one book instead of two I had originally planned. It's 2/3 the price of Zack's book, and I doubt it reads like lecture notes, as hers does (because that's what it is, really -- she really can write well when she sets out to write a real book).

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