Now in Paperback
“The gap between intuition and argument—between outrage and the best response to that outrage—is the subject of Robert Tsai’s Practical Equality. Tsai, a constitutional litigator, is intimately familiar with how arguments about equality have unfolded in the courts. Often, he writes, the moral magnetism of equality backfires.” — Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker
“Fascinating.” — Adam Liptak, New York Times
“Robert’s words and his book are so important.” — Joe Scarborough, Morning Joe
“This is an amazing project.” — Dahlia Lithwick, Slate
“How do you fight for social change during periods of reaction or when structures of injustice are deeply entrenched? Robert Tsai’s Practical Equality beautifully wrestles with this dilemma and with the everyday political challenge of defending the principle of equality under less than ideal circumstances.” — Aziz Rana, Professor of Law, Cornell Law School, and author of The Two Faces of American Freedom
A path-breaking account of how Americans have used innovative legal measures to overcome injustice — and an indispensable guide to pursuing equality in our time.
Equality is easy to grasp in theory but often hard to achieve in reality. In this accessible and wide-ranging work, Boston University law professor Robert L. Tsai offers a stirring account of how legal ideas that aren’t necessarily about equality at all—ensuring fair play, acting reasonably, avoiding cruelty, and protecting free speech—have been used to overcome inequality in the past and can serve as potent alternative tools to promote equality today.
Practical Equality is an original and compelling book on the intersection of law and society. Tsai, a leading expert on constitutional law who has written widely in the popular press, traces challenges to equality throughout American history: from the oppression of emancipated slaves after the Civil War to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II to President Trump’s ban on Muslim travelers. He applies lessons from these and other past struggles to such pressing contemporary issues as the rights of sexual minorities and the homeless, racism in the criminal justice system, police brutality, voting restrictions, oppressive measures against migrants, and more.
Deeply researched and well argued, Practical Equality offers a sense of optimism and a guide to pursuing equality for activists, lawyers, public officials, and concerned citizens.