Torres, Gerald 1952-
TORRES, Gerald 1952-
ADDRESSES: Office—University of Texas School of Law, 727 East Dean Keeton St., Austin, TX 78705. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Children's Defense Fund, Washington, DC, staff attorney, 1977-78; admitted to the Bar, 1978; University of Pittsburgh Law School, Pittsburgh, PA, assistant professor, began 1980; University of Minnesota Law School, professor; visiting professor at Harvard Law School, Vermont Law School, and University of Texas School of Law; University of Texas School of Law, professor, 1993—, became vice provost and H. O. Head Centennial Professor in Real Property Law. Served as deputy assistant attorney general to Attorney General Janet Reno, U.S. Department of Justice, for environmental and natural resources and Indian affairs, established Office of Tribal Justice; served on board of Environmental Law Institute, and on Environmental Protection Agency national environmental justice advisory council.
MEMBER: American Law Institute.
Farming and Groundwater: An Introduction, Agricultural Law and Policy Institute (Minneapolis, MN), 1988.
Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including New York Times, Nation, Journal of Law and Politics, Hispanic Law Journal, Environmental Law, and other journals of law and policy. Contributor to books, including The Politics of Law: A Progressive Critique, third edition, edited by David Kairys, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1998; Borderless Borders: U.S. Latinos, Latin Americans, and the Paradox of Independence, edited by Frank Bonilla and others, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1998; Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, second edition, edited by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanic, Temple University Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2000; and Justice and Natural Resources: Concepts, Strategies, and Applications, edited by K. M. Mutz, G. C. Bryner, and D. S. Kenney, Island Press (Washington, DC), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Gerald Torres is an attorney who is an expert in environmental, agricultural, and real estate law. He has taught at universities and worked in the U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General Janet Reno during the Clinton administration. There he became an advocate of Native American rights, establishing the Office of Tribal Justice. While a professor of law at the University of Texas, Torres collaborated with Harvard University professor Lani Guinier in writing The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy.
Miners took canaries into the coal mines as an alert system to indicate when poisonous gases were present in the air; if the canary died, the miners fled. Torres and Guinier use the canary scenario as a metaphor for how society's problems can often first be detected in minority groups. They propose a social-justice movement that will bring equity not only to blacks and Hispanics, but to the powerless in white society as well. Evette Porter noted in Black Issues Book Review that, "not surprisingly, Guinier enlists some of the same arguments here that proved to be her undoing in her short-lived nomination for assistant attorney general for civil rights under former President Clinton."
The authors note that young black or brown men—the "canaries"—too often find themselves incarcerated; if they do not go to college, "we wait for their boredom, desperation, or sense of uselessness to catch up with them." It is then, they say, that society finds a reason to send them to prison. "Their description of current race relations is well grounded, often even inarguable," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Torres and Guinier also offer evidence showing that the courts do not dispense justice equally to whites and blacks. A Publishers Weekly contributor said that in addressing such topics as racial identity and racial profiling Torres and Guinier "grapple intelligently and with passionate wit … making this one of the most provocative and challenging books on race produced in years."
Case studies are provided demonstrating how people of different racial groups can successfully work together. One is a campaign to unionize a North Carolina K-Mart that was led by black workers and the clergy, then joined by white workers and businessmen. Broad-based discrimination in Texas is noted; the authors claim that only ten percent of the state's high schools sent seventy-five percent of the freshman to the state university system's top colleges. The "Texas Ten Percent Plan" was subsequently put in place, guaranteeing that the top ten percent of every high-school graduating class would be offered admission to college, regardless of S.A.T. scores, which tend to be lower for minority students, as well as for white students from poor rural communities. "The goal of reaching such truly evenhanded solutions is what this book generously holds out," commented Alan D. Boyer in the New York Times Book Review.
Torres and Guinier propose using the experiences of people of color in implementing social change that will benefit all socially disadvantaged groups and want to unite all races in the new reform movement. "Their emphasis on the role of poor and working-class whites is perhaps their most important contribution," said James Forman, Jr. in the Washington Post Book World. Their challenge to progressives is "to move from a politics based primarily on a narrow definition of group or individual self-interest to action in service of a transformative vision of social justice."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Lawyer, January, 2002, review of The Miner's Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy, p. 64.
Black Issues Book Review, March, 2002, Evette Porter, review of The Miner's Canary, p. 61.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2001, review of The Miner's Canary, p. 1595.
New York Times Book Review, April 21, 2002, Allen D. Boyer, review of The Miner's Canary.
Publishers Weekly, November 26, 2001, review of The Miner's Canary, p. 47.
Washington Post Book World, February 3, 2002, James Forman, Jr., review of The Miner's Canary, p. 3.
Minerscanary.org,http://www.minerscanary.org/ (June 9, 2002).*