Allow Me to Retort

A Black Guy’s Guide to the Constitution

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Pub Date 11 Jan 2022 | Archive Date 11 Jan 2022

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The MSNBC commentator and justice correspondent of The Nation turns his razor-sharp wit and legal acumen on our founding document and finds it to be . . . well, awfully white

“A pugnacious and entertaining critique of conservative interpretations of the Constitution. . . . Buttressed by Mystal’s caustic wit and accessible legal theories, this fiery takedown hits the mark.”

—Publishers Weekly

According to commentator and lawyer Elie Mystal, Republicans are wrong when they tell you the First Amendment allows religious fundamentalists to discriminate against gay people who like cake. They’re wrong when they tell you the Second Amendment protects the right to own a private arsenal. They’re wrong when they say the death penalty isn’t cruel or unusual punishment, and they’re wrong when they tell you we have no legal remedies for the scourge of police violence against people of color.

In fact, Mystal argues, Republicans are wrong about the law almost all of the time, and now, instead of talking about this on cable news, Mystal explains why in his first book.

Allow Me to Retort is an easily digestible argument primer, offered so that people can tell the Republicans in their own lives why they are wrong. Mystal brings his trademark humor, snark, and legal expertise to topics as crucial to our politics as gerrymandering and voter suppression, and explains why legal concepts such as the right to privacy and substantive due process are constantly under attack from the very worst judges conservatives can pack onto the courts.

You don’t need to be a legal scholar to grasp how stop-and-frisk is an unconstitutional policy of racial discrimination. You just need to read Mystal’s book to understand that the Fourteenth Amendment once made the white supremacist policies adopted by the modern Republican Party illegal—and it can do so again if we let it.

The MSNBC commentator and justice correspondent of The Nation turns his razor-sharp wit and legal acumen on our founding document and finds it to be . . . well, awfully white

“A pugnacious and...

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Featured Reviews

This was just great. I have followed Elie for years and I just knew I would love this book. As he says in the beginning, this isn't a book of legalese, this is a book of things you can tell those people in your life who like to throw around the constitution as why they can do a variety of horrible things. Our constitution has been misconstrued and misinterpreted for a very long time. Even worse, it has been waved in the air to rationalize bad behavior. This quote is a great peek at the approach Elie takes to evaluating each piece of the Constitution, especially the amendments: "The other difference one will notice about this book is that I treat the law as an argument. People are told that the law is an "objective" thing, almost like it's a form of physics. But it's not: the law is a collection of subjective decisions we have made over the years to protect people and activities we like, and to punish people and activities we don't like."

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I'm so glad a book like this is getting published. So often, books about American politics and complicated legal topics are written by lawyers for other lawyers. This book is written in a way that bridges the gap between legal scholars and the general public. Mystal has a way of writing that's more conversational and personal, allowing his readers to actually engage with the topic. His analysis of the constitution through a more equitable lens is sorely missing from political debate. I've read other books that tackle a similar topic and while they uphold the constitution as an imperfect, but intrinsically good document, Mystal challenges its existence and moral authority entirely. I really enjoyed reading what Mystal had to say about such relevant topics.

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