Things aren't always easy for white writers on race. Sift through the confused, conflicting feelings that most white Americans today harbor on race-charged issues--from affirmative action to interracial marriage, not to mention the Million Man March and O.J.--and try to make some sense of them. Don't stray too far right; you'll invite charges of callousness. But don't huddle too close to the left; you'll be criticized for rabble rousing. And along the way, be mindful of readers' easy exhaustion with the whole subject.

The task is daunting, but even as Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom's new book upends liberal dogma on racial...

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