Books by Jim Sleeper

Released: July 1, 1997

Anyone who can resist the temptation to dismiss this book as another conservative-in-liberal's-clothing attack on the legacy of the civil rights movement will find it disturbing and well worth reading. Veteran journalist Sleeper (The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York, 1990) argues that liberals have shifted from the laudable goal of a race-blind society to a ``racialist'' mindset that segments society along racial lines. In their ``puzzling'' attachment to race, they defer to ``race hustlers, ideologues, and opportunists'' (read figures like William Kunstler and Al Sharpton) in ``the name of `diversity' '' instead of welcoming the prospect of a society that transcends race. But Sleeper is not an apologist for past and present racism. He shrilly condemns liberals who have lost sight of the importance of individualism and universal values, yet sets himself apart from conservative critics by recognizing the reality of discrimination and genuinely seeking a society in which race does not matter. This not only places him directly at odds with proponents of identity politics, it imposes a burden that he does not directly confront: If your goal is racelessness but you refuse to pretend that it already exists, some method of achieving that goal is required. Avoiding this tricky problem is excusable—public policy is not the focus here—but there is a more troubling matter to consider. Although Sleeper proceeds in a journalistic style by introducing us to a series of people, throughout he tends to lump ``liberals'' into a monolithic bloc and attack them as one. This not only suggests the presence of a straw man, it seems to be the kind of arbitrary grouping that Sleeper objects to when the commonality is race. Nevertheless, anyone with the courage to address such a loaded issue and to raise uncomfortable but undeniable concerns in an honest manner must be applauded. (Author tour) Read full book review >