Vanderbilt Law Review


Richard Delgado

First Page



As most legal readers know, members of the Critical Race Studies (CRS) school" and mainstream civil rights scholars have been carrying on a rather spectacular and highly public debate. First, Randall Kennedy, a mainstream scholar, took the newcomers to task in his Racial Critiques article, charging us with making unfounded accusations and grandiose claims,' with finding racial exclusion where none exists, and with various other sins of omission and commission. The controversy moved next to the pages of the popular press. Then, in the June 1990 issue of Harvard Law Review, three members of CRS and a white sympathizer were given an opportunity to respond.

In his Introduction to that group of responses, Scott Brewer, a young, as-yet unaligned scholar, issued a call for peace. Both sides share a common goal, Brewer wrote; why can they not set aside their differences and work together to realize it? This Essay addresses appeals, like Brewer's, to common cause. I first explore the inner logic of these appeals to see what functions they may serve. I then apply this analysis to the dispute between CRS and the mainstream figures. Al- though scholars have investigated the conditions of cooperation in other areas, little has been written on appeals to common cause in connection with radical legal movements like CRS. I focus attention on the form and politics of such appeals, as well as on their merits and chance of success. When are appeals to common cause helpful, and when are they naive, incoherent, or even disingenuous?"