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Outsiders: Why Difference is the Future of Civil Rights
March 2019
Oxford University Press

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Outsiders: Why Difference is the Future of Civil Rights

Zachary Kramer

What is the future of civil rights?

Like a living thing, discrimination evolves, adapting to its time. As discrimination becomes more individualized, as difference becomes more pronounced, we need a civil rights that is attuned to the way identity is performed today. "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 need to refresh our vision of civil rights. 

Taking its cue from religious discrimination law, "Outsiders" proposes two major changes to civil rights law. The first is a right to personality. Identity comes from within. The goal of civil rights law should be to take people as they come, to let each of us determine who we are and how we relate to the world around us. The second change is a shift in how the law responds to discrimination. The critical question driving equality law should be whether there is space to accommodate a person's identity. Accommodations are about respecting difference, not erasing it. Accommodations are a way to bring outsiders in.

"Outsiders" seeks to change the way we think about identity, equality, and discrimination. It argues that difference, not sameness, should be the cornerstone of civil rights. Mixing doctrine and theory, art, and personal narrative, "Outsiders" proposes a civil rights for everyone. Being different is universal. We are all outsiders.


Zachary 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.

Praise for this book

"Kramer says, 'We are all outsiders' and I say — we all need to read this book. 'Outsiders' is a wild ride into the contemporary realities of discrimination, identity and accommodation. A tour de force, 'Outsiders' offers an updated vision of civil rights law for the 21st century. Insightful, engaging and well-written, this book will deeply shape the ways you think about equality in today's markets."

Orly Lobel
Don Weckstein Professor of Law, University of San Diego, and author of "Talent Wants to Be Free"

"A refreshing read, offering a much-needed perspective on the limits and possibilties of law."

Sonia Katyal
Haas Distinguished Chair, UC Berkeley, and author of "Property Outlaws"