Lynn's Reviews > Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality

Rights Gone Wrong by Richard Thompson Ford
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Jan 26, 2012

it was ok

The title and description of this book are misleading. The book is not about how the civil rights legal framework undermines the struggle for equality. The majority of the book is the author's oversimplification of discrimination issues in an intellectually dishonest way. He never mentions strict or intermediate scrutiny or rational review, which, as essential parts of the civil rights legal framework, bear mentioning since he is purporting to critique their efficacy in achieving equality. The author also never draws a distinction between discrimination by public and private entities, a huge lapse. These lapses, plus a few cases he brings up repeatedly throughout the book (like banning ladies night at a nightclub), contribute to an impression that the civil rights legal framework makes it illegal to ever draw distinctions based on factors like race or gender, which is completely untrue.

It's as if the author recorded his random thoughts, transcribed them, and the result is this published book. For example, he tries to draw a distinction between what he considers legitimate disabilities, deafness, and illegitimate ones, ADHD, and suggests that students with the latter should not be entitled to special education services. He thinks that many students would benefit from the educational accommodations that special education students get (I agree with this) and therefore, students with disabilities like ADHD shouldn't be entitled to special education services because it means there are less resources to provide these services to everyone (I don't agree with this). First of all, he is not a medical professional, so I don't know how he has the expertise to determine what a legitimate and illegitimate disability is. Secondly, the fact that many students would benefit from multimodal teaching strategies certainly doesn't mean that there aren't some kids who still need additional support. Another example of the author's half baked ideas are his attack of class action litigation because individuals who weren't clearly harmed benefit, but he admits that it's too expensive for individual plaintiffs to sue on their own. That's how he leaves it - no suggestions for how those injured could actually be compensated or how those injuries could be avoided, just a critique of how class actions aren't perfect. Well, then tell us your preferred alternative!

From time to time, the author does bring up interesting points like whether the Brown v Board of Ed Court contemplated decisions like that in Seattle/Louisville where school districts aiming to promote integration were essentially not allowed to do so because race was too salient of a factor in their school assignment policies (this is a gross oversimplification, but is the author's point in bringing it up). Unfortunately, the author fails to propose any solutions to this "failure" of the civil rights legal framework. In fact, he dedicates only a few pages at the very end of the book to say that there should be some kind of federal regulatory agency that enforces civil rights, but fails to address how this could be politically feasible or even legal!

The book is terribly written and edited. It reads like the author took a bunch of things he'd previously written and pieced them together and it somehow missed the editing desk on its way to publication.

That said, the purported thesis is a really interesting one and I had some interesting conversations about that, which is why I rated this book 2 stars instead of 1. I really hope that someone actually writes the book this author claims to have written.

PS Something else very strange about this book is that the reviews on the back of the book all seem to be about his other book, The Race Card - another editing failure perhaps.
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03/21/2017 marked as: read

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