The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time

Paperback | May 22, 2015

byChristopher J. Lebron

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For many Americans, the election of Barack Obama as the country's first black president signaled that we had become a post-racial nation - some even suggested that race was no longer worth discussing. Of course, the evidence tells a very different story. And while social scientists are fullyengaged in examining the facts of race, normative political thought has failed to grapple with race as an interesting moral case or as a focus in the expansive theory of social justice. Political thought's under participation in the debate over the status of blacks in American society raises seriousconcerns since the main academic task of political theory is to adjudicate discrepancies between the demands of ideal justice and social realities. Christopher J. Lebron contends that it is the duty of political thought to address the moral problems that attend racial inequality and to make those problems salient to a democratic polity. Thus, in The Color of Our Shame, he asks two major questions. First, given the success of the Civil RightsAct and the sharp decline in overt racist norms, how can we explain the persistence of systemic racial inequality? Second, once we have settled on an explanation, what might political philosophy have to offer in terms of a solution? In order to answer these questions Lebron suggests that we reconceive of racial inequality as a condition that marks the normative status of black citizens in the eyes of the nation. He argues that our collective response to racial inequality ought to be shame. While we reject race as a reason formarginalizing blacks on the basis of liberal democratic ideals, we fail to live up to those ideals - a situation that Lebron sees as a failure of national character. Drawing on a wide array of resources including liberal theory, virtue ethics, history, and popular culture, Lebron proposes a movetoward a "perfectionist politics" that would compel a higher level of racially relevant moral excellence from individuals and institutions and enable America to meet the democratic ideals that it has set for itself.

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From the Publisher

For many Americans, the election of Barack Obama as the country's first black president signaled that we had become a post-racial nation - some even suggested that race was no longer worth discussing. Of course, the evidence tells a very different story. And while social scientists are fullyengaged in examining the facts of race, norma...

Christopher J. Lebron is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Philosophy at Yale University.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 9.21 × 6.1 × 0.71 inPublished:May 22, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190264675

ISBN - 13:9780190264673

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Table of Contents

PrefaceIntroduction1. Shame and Method2. The Problem of Social Value3. Marshall's Lament4. The Souls of American Folk5. Racial Justice In Our TimeEpilogue - The Agony of a Racial DemocracyNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"In this book, Christopher Lebron artfully joins Rawlsian-inspired theorizing about social justice with critical race theory's focus on ongoing racial injustice to illuminate what is needed to develop a distinctly political theory of racial justice. In so doing, he also sheds light on the roleof popular culture and national character, or civic culture, in perpetuating the gap between venerable American ideals and deplorable American realities." --Perspectives on Politics