Contemporary discrimination has changed in important ways from the forms it took in the 1960s, the era in which our civil rights law system originated. Previously, the primary targets of discrimination were groups: African Americans, women, and Latinos, among others. The goal of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to integrate marginalized groups into civic life, shatter ceilings, and break down barriers. The law sought to make us better people and America a more equal nation.Professor Kramer is associate dean of faculty, professor of law, and Willard H. Pedrick Distinguished Research Scholar at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.
And it has. Discrimination against groups still occurs, but affected groups can marshal the rights regime to target and eliminate discriminatory policies. The challenge today, however, is to protect the individual, and our civil rights laws struggle with this. The people most likely to face discrimination today are those who do not or cannot conform to the whims of society. They are the freaks, geeks, weirdos, and oddballs among us. They do and wear strange things, have strange opinions, and need strange accommodations.
Outsiders is filled with stories that demand attention, stories of people whose search for identity has cast them to the margins. Their stories reveal that we have entered a new phase of civil rights and need to refresh our vision. Instead of dealing in protected traits, civil rights law should take its cue from religious discrimination law and provide a right to personality. Outsiders seeks to change the way we think about identity, equality, and discrimination, positing that difference, not sameness, is the feature of our age and arguing for a civil rights movement for everyone.