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Kenji Yoshino’s book Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights is a brilliant work of art. A self-proclaimed poet, Yoshino skillfully incorporates storytelling into a sharp critique of the failure of anti-discrimination law to perceive “covering” — the downplaying of one’s nonmainstream identities — as a threat. Yoshino, a Yale Law School professor, contends that in our post-civil rights era, society agrees that no one should be punished for differences from the “norm.” But Yoshino believes we still pressure individuals with outsider identities to mute their differences. “We are at a transitional moment in how Americans discriminate,” he writes. While noting that times have changed, he describes this new discrimination as one whereby “individuals no longer needed to be white, male, straight, Protestant, and able-bodied, they needed only to act white, male, straight, Protestant, and able-bodied.” Using the struggle for gay rights as an example, Yoshino describes two phases of self-subordination — conversion and passing — and then details his personal travels through these phases. The first phase, conversion, involved seeking to become what he was not — in his case, praying to be heterosexual. The second phase, passing, came when Yoshino accepted his homosexuality but hid it from others. Today, he contends, all people are expected to assimilate by downplaying their disfavored identities. “Everyone covers,” he says. For traditional outsiders, that covering is often related to a form of supremacy, such as white supremacy or male supremacy. This new form of discrimination targets minority cultures, not minority individuals. For this reason, Yoshino argues, civil rights work will not be successful unless covering is brought to the forefront. Yoshino offers two solutions. First, he proposes that we end the focus on traditional civil rights groups and more broadly recognize individuals’ rights to express their humanity freely. We should demand justifications for coerced covering through what Yoshino defines as “reason-forcing conversations.” These conversations make institutions justify the burdens they place on individuals. For existing civil rights groups, Yoshino stresses that “absent a reason for demanding conformity, the state or employer must bend toward the individual, rather than vice versa.” The employer should not be able to demand covering purely based on cultural bias, but must do so only for a legitimate reason. For example, in Rogers v. American Airlines, Renee Rogers, an airline operations agent, challenged the airline’s grooming policy that forbid all braided hairstyles as race discrimination under Title VII. Yoshino would have the court question the legitimacy of the airline’s rule against braided hairstyles at work — to explain why those hairstyles are not appropriate for its workplace — rather than simply focus on whether it was possible for Rogers to cover by not wearing cornrows. Second, Yoshino proposes that Americans turn to private conversations, rather than lawsuits, to address many covering demands. Such conversations will help reveal “the revolutionary breadth of that aspiration” to be our authentic selves without bias. Yoshino’s writing and analysis are first-rate. Any reader should be convinced by his gripping stories, including the tale of Guy Olmstead, a man who tried to convert to heterosexuality by undergoing castration in 1894; the heartbreaking story of how then-Supreme Court law clerk Cabell Chinnis passed as heterosexual to Justice Lewis F. Powell, who would cast the deciding vote on Bowers v. Hardwick, a case that left gays vulnerable to prosecution for sexual intimacy in their own homes; and the story of Robin Shahar, who lost her job as an attorney for Georgia’s Department of Law when she married her female lover and changed her name in honor of the union. Yoshino’s book leaves the reader with only a few questions. For example, I wondered about the intersection of covering across racial and sexual lines. Except for his parents’ reaction to his coming out, Yoshino puts his racial and sexual covering into separate categories. I also questioned Yoshino’s claim that gays and minorities are not asked to reverse-cover — that is, to act according to stereotypes attached to their groups — as much as women are by the dominant group. Rather, he contends, the reverse-covering demand for minorities and gays is more likely to be made from within their own groups. But just as blacks are asked by whites to cover by not being “too ethnic,” they also are frequently asked, especially when they are one of a few minorities in a work setting, to be appropriately ethnic. For instance, the demand to reverse-cover for Justice Clarence Thomas — to think and act in a way that is perceived as authentically black — comes as much from whites as from blacks. Minority faculty are routinely told by whites that fellow minority colleagues are not “black enough” or “Chicano enough,” whatever the appropriate “enough” category may be. For example, Yoshino’s white dormmate at Harvard quipped about a black dean at the school, “I’m more black than Dean X.” But these few criticisms and questions are minor. Yoshino’s book is a truly superb piece of work, and I highly recommend it for any reader.
Angela Onwuachi-Willig is a professor of law at the University of California-Davis who has published articles in the Michigan Law Review , California Law Review, Iowa Law Review , and Wisconsin Law Review .

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