On Our Shelves Now
A searing--and sobering--account of the legal and extra-legal means by which systemic white racism has kept Black Americans 'in their place' from slavery to police and vigilante killings of Black men and women, from 1619 to the present. From the arrival of the first English settlers in America until now-a span of four centuries-a minority of white men have created, managed, and perpetuated their control of every major institution, public and private, in American society. And no group in America has suffered more from the harms
imposed by white men's laws than African Americans, with punishment by law often replaced by extra-legal means. Over the centuries, thousands of victims have been murdered by lynching, white mobs, and appalling massacres. In White Men's Law, the eminent scholar Peter Irons makes a powerful and persuasive case that African Americans have always been held back by systemic racism in all major institutions that can hold power over them. Based on a wide range of sources, from the painful words of former slaves to test
scores that reveal how our education system has failed Black children, this searing and sobering account of legal and extra-legal violence against African Americans peels away the fictions and myths expressed by white racists. The centerpiece of Irons' account is a 1935 lynching in Fort Lauderdale,
Florida. The episode produced a photograph of a blonde white girl of about seven looking at the hanging, bullet-riddled body of Rubin Stacy, who was accused of assaulting a white woman. After analyzing this gruesome murder and the visual evidence left behind, Irons poses a foundational question:
What historical forces preceded and followed this lynching to spark resistance to Jim Crow segregation, especially in schools that had crippled Black children with inferior education? The answers are rooted in the systemic racism-especially in the institutions of law and education--that African
Americans, and growing numbers of white allies, are demanding be dismantled in tangible ways. A thought-provoking look at systemic racism and the legal systems that built it, White Men's Law is an essential contribution to this painful but necessary debate.
About the Author
Peter Irons is a noted scholar on constitutional law and the acclaimed author of a dozen books on the Supreme Court and famous (and infamous) cases, including Justice at War (Oxford), that the justices have decided since the Constitution's adoption in 1788. He is Professor of Political ScienceEmeritus at the University of California-San Diego. As an attorney, he has represented clients in state and federal courts, and is a member of the US Supreme Court Bar. Peter Irons is also a long-time civil rights and antiwar activist.