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Ideal theory seeks to identify the basic conditions of social justice but does not tell us how to achieve them. Christopher Lebron’s important new book The Color of Our Shame is a philosophically enterprising venture in non-ideal theory, suggesting how we might bring about racial equality in America. A reader who is passingly familiar with civil rights developments of the 1950s and 1960s might imagine that racial inequality is a disappearing vestige of past discrimination; so an essential step in Christopher Lebron’s argument is to establish that racial inequality remains a grave issue half a century later. That task is taken up in chapter 3, which focuses on criminal law and welfare policy as illustrations. If the reader ventures beyond that chapter’s brief discussion and examines the wider literature cited in the endnotes, she can begin to understand why one writer dubs the current system “the new Jim Crow.”

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