Balkan Ghosts

Whatever Reva Siegel writes is worth close study.  This recent Yale Law Journal article is no exception — characteristically alert and probing, quintessentially first-rate.  She identifies a worry recurring in important opinions Justice Kennedy has written recently – an intimation that identifying individuals on the basis of race is balkanizing.  This suggestion or something like it, she notes, also shows up in affirmative action opinions Justices O’Connor and Powell wrote and in an impressive article by Paul Mishkin Professor Siegel herself, Robert Post, and others have taken up.  She wonders whether the balkanizing worry defines a third way — an alternative to both color-blind concerns with use of racial classifications as such and preoccupations with the facts and circumstances of subordination.  The well-known Seattle and New Haven controversies look like appropriate cases for use of the balkanizing idea, she thinks.  Her discussion of Seattle (and the Louisville companion, not really separated) is somewhat abstract. Her assessment of how the city made matters worse in New Haven, and the likely consequences, feels especially dead-on.

As the article itself suggests in its long finish, the notion of “balkanizing” is provocative but incomplete.  There needs to be some filling in.  Reva Siegel is sure about that, but she doesn’t try to take the work too far.  She’s sketching but not necessarily joining this school of thought.  But what she writes is nonetheless a very effective prompt, an invitation to readers to pose tests or propose for themselves more in the way of elaboration.  Indeed, a true sign of the great success of the article lies in how quickly the reader begins to join in Siegel’s exploration. Continue reading "Balkan Ghosts"