Lani Guinier Speaks

Famed legal scholar, civil rights attorney and author, Lani Guinier, spoke at Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union in 2009. The first black woman tenured professor at Harvard Law School, Ms Guinier has authored and co-authored several books including Tyranny of the Majority: Fundamental Fairness in Representative Democracy and Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback Into a New Vision of Social Justice.

Guinier gained notoriety when President Bill Clinton selected her as his nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in April 1993. He later withdrew the nomination claiming he was unaware of some of Guinier’s positions. His explanation for the withdrawal was questionable considering the long friendship both Hillary and Bill Clinton enjoyed with Guinier dating back to law school.  In light of their long standing relationship, many found it hard to believe that Clinton was unfamiliar or unaware of Guinier’s positions especially on core civil rights issues.  After the Clinton episode, Professor Guinier went on to continue her successful career in academia.

When asked how to minimize classism in black America, Professor Guinier responded that we have to reframe the notion of merit.  In this video, Professor Guinier talks about conventional measures of merit and how they fall short in helping to highlight true talent.  The professor argues that high SAT scores or straight A’s at Harvard Law School, where she is tenured, aren’t necessarily measures of true talent.  Says Guinier, “you can get straight A’s at Harvard Law School and still come out being a bad lawyer”.

In the video, Professor Guinier asserts that true talent is found in diverse groups of problem solvers – further stating that, “Diversity in problem solving groups trumps individual ability.”  During this brief talk, Guinier recommnends a book written by Scott E. Page entitled, “The Difference” to those who are interested in learning more about diversity, collaboration and complex systems.

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