THE MYTH OF BLACK PROGRESS by Alphonso Pinkney

THE MYTH OF BLACK PROGRESS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A worthy undertaking, regrettably botched. Sociologist Pinkney (Hunter, CUNY) wishes to show that, contrary to the claims of white and black neoconservatives, blacks have made only minimal, threatened gains since the 1960s, and racism is still rife: two arguments, supported in actuality by observation and statistics, that he weakens by presenting uncorrelated, often out-of-date evidence and making flat, broad, a priori assertions. The introductory chapter does have a certain utility as a review of social-science writings, since the mid-1960s, in some way inimical to blacks; from the Moynihan report on ""The Negro Family,"" to Fogel and Engerman's Time on the Cross, with its ""benign"" view of slavery, to the discrimination-denial of black economist Thomas Sowell and black sociologist William Wilson. There follows a competent, sometimes incisive discussion--by Walter Stafford (Adelphi School of Social Work)--of ""Economic Decline and the Rise of the New Conservatism,"" which points out the relation between middle-class white security and black gains, and black difficulty in relating race to postindustrial issues: ""the debates""--about morals and values--""were among whites and about how they saw their future."" Meanwhile the burgeoning conservative groups (delineated in detail) went largely unchallenged by black organizations--in part because of the black-leadership crisis spelled out by Pinkney elsewhere. Most of his own material, however, falls far short of this standard. There is a murky, semi-Marxist discussion of class vs. race, to the point that race is more decisive; a grade-school argument that, though prejudice has declined, ""whites still maintain strongly negative attitudes toward blacks""; a particularly unfortunate jumble of income, occupation, and unemployment data (without recent, devastating figures); a tightrope-treatment of the black middle-class--seconding past lifestyle charges, denying current allegations of ""class warfare""; some sympathetic close-ups of the black underclass, with little analysis; and a couple of sections on educational and related issues--open admissions, busing, affirmative action--that do little more than make the standing, correct-past-wrongs case for remediation. Stafford's socioeconomic interweave apart, the disadvantaged situation of blacks is more cogently and compellingly treated by Michael Harrington in his forthcoming The New American Poverty (p. 566).

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0521310474
Publisher: Cambridge Univ. Press