The Bloods and the Crits
December 09, 1996
During the past decade, an academic movement called critical race theory has gained increasing currency in the legal academy. Rejecting the achievements of the civil rights movement of the 1960s as epiphenomenal, critical race scholars argue that the dismantling of the apparatus of formal segregation failed to purge American society of its endemic racism, or to improve the social status of African Americans in discernible or lasting ways. The claim that these scholars make is not only political; it is also epistemological.
The Day the Quotas Died
April 26, 1996
Great Supreme Court decisions, for all their theatricality, are notoriously weak engines of social change. The commands of Brown v. Board of Education weren't implemented until decades later; Roe v. Wade confirmed a trend toward the liberalization of abortion laws that had been percolating in the states. But, a year after it was handed down, Adarand v. Pena is proving to be a startling exception. Like a boulder thrown into a placid pond, Adarand has been sending ripples through the lower courts in ways that are already transforming affirmative action as we know it.
April 22, 1996
Marjorie Garber, Kenan Professor of English at Harvard, was lost in arcana. Squinting analytically, and fiercely puzzled, she began to split hairs. “May I add a transgressive note?” she asked the lecturer. “As somebody who has appeared on them, there does seem to me a difference between talk shows such as ‘Donahue’ and ‘Oprah’ and, say, shows like ‘Jenny Jones.’ It may only be the difference between modes of Protestant confession and Catholic confession, of course....” The two-day conference on “Dirt,” organized by Garber’s two Harvard departments, English Literature and the Center for Literar
The Southern Coup
June 19, 1995
When the new Republican Congress was sworn in last January, the South finally conquered Washington. The defeated Democratic leadership had been almost exclusively from the Northeast, the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, with Speaker Tom Foley of Washington, Majority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri and Majority Whip David Bonior of Michigan in the House, and, on the Senate side, Majority Leader George Mitchell from Maine. The only Southerner in the Democratic congressional leadership was Senate Majority Whip Wendell Ford of Kentucky.
I. I just got back from Hollywood, where I had breakfast with Ricardo Mestres at the Bel Air Hotel. Mestres shot from Harvard to the head of Disney’s Hollywood pictures, only to release a string of flops so unremittingly horrible that finally, after a deathwatch that seemed to go on for years, he lost his job. But there he was, with a spanking new title, dressed with casual confidence in khakis and a plaid shirt, working on his second breakfast of the day. The head of Warner Brothers’ film division sat across from us, the new chairman of Disney in the corner.
March 13, 1995
Your legal correspondent has been doing his part to keep this magazine 100 percent O.J.-free. My resolution to miss each moment of the trial of the century began out of indolence and has now blossomed into a ripe affectation. The truth is that I've always had an aversion to celebrity trials: the soap operatic narratives spun out to arouse the passions of jurors leave me alternately indifferent and uncomfortable; and the messy particularity of actual human experience tends to obscure the abstract legal principles that make my heart race.
The Case Against 'Abroad'
December 11, 1994
CLOSE THAT COPY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS. IT'S O.K. Clip the coupon below to let Foreign Policy guide you through the next critical year. — Advertisement in Foreign Affairs, Fall 1993 I think I can pinpoint the moment I first felt obliged to be interested in foreign affairs. It was during a steamy New Orleans summer between high school and college, when, after a local worthy ridiculed me for never having heard of Rebecca West, I found myself bench-pressing a copy of Black Lamb and Gray Falcon, the author's 1,200-page study of Yugoslavia.
The Forgotten Formalist
December 05, 1994
Hugo Black: A Biography by Roger K. Newman (Pantheon, 741 pp., $30) On February 17, 1960, at New York University, Justice Hugo Black defended his judicial philosophy against the sneers of Felix Frankfurter and Learned Hand. "Some people regard the prohibitions of the Constitution ... as mere admonitions which Congress need not always observe," said Black in backhanded response to Hand's lectures at Harvard two years earlier. This approach, which "comes close to the English doctrine of legislative omnipotence," Black could not accept.
November 07, 1994
John Judis on Mitt Romney's 1994 challenge to Ted Kennedy.
August 08, 1994
With Honors, Alek Keshishian's movie about four Harvard roommates who learn charity and humility by taking in a homeless man closed recently after an aborted run. I wish it had done better; for Keshishian and I were college classmates, and he appears to have borrowed his plot from my life. In the movie, a cuddly bum named Simon (played by Joe Pesci) finds the only copy of an honors thesis written by Monty, a Harvard senior, and trades it back for food and lodgings.