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

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 Rights Act 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 for marginalizing 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 move toward 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.

From the publisher: Oxford University Press,