A perceptive and provocative, if essentially impressionistic, appreciation of the extent to which pan-ethnicism now prevails in the US. With good will to all and a sharp eye for statistical as well as anecdotal detail, Christopher (Second to None, The Japanese Mind) offers a rough-and-ready survey of America's variegated population. He focuses, though, on the upward mobility of its constituent groups, including WASPs. Over the years, concludes the author (a Newsweek correspond turned professor of journalism at Columbia), neither the nation nor its putative WASP establishment has been as exclusionary as generally believed. If anything, inclusionary trends have gathered momentum since 1960, when JFK overcame a discernible degree of bias to win the Presidency. Indeed, the assimilative changes have been so pronounced that a reporter covering last year's campaign observed that he knew Michael Dukakis "before he was a Greek." Increasingly greater numbers of ethnic Americans, Christopher shows, have found room at the top in the arts, banking, commerce, industry, the law, politics, show biz, and other fields long assumed to be the private preserves of a clannish WASP elite. The result, he implies, has been less a changing of the guard than an acceptance of the values developed by an influential aristocracy whose ranks were never really sizable—or wholly closed. In his name-dropping overview, the author does not gainsay the fact that racial prejudice has played an unfortunately prominent role in efforts to promote or protect particular socioeconomic interests. Nor, noting the plight of American Indians and underclass blacks, does he contend that institutionalized discrimination is a victimless offense. Christopher does argue, though, that the melting pot has worked insofar as those who set the country's pace are now the very models of cultural diversity. Pop sociology of a very high order, which for all its acuity and impartiality could stir tempests in any number of teapots.
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