TWO NATIONS by Andrew Hacker


Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal


 ``Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal,'' concluded the Kerner Commission on civil disorders in 1968. Relying heavily on demographic data, Hacker (Political Science/Queens College; ed., U/S, 1982; The New Yorkers, 1975, etc.) demonstrates the myriad ways in which the races remain at uneasy removes from each other. Although this great divide is amply documented here, Hacker's contention that white society bears the overwhelming responsibility for its continued existence may strike some as simplistic. It does not really answer Shelby Steele's The Content of Our Character or William Julius Wilson's economic explanations for the disparities between black and white. Hacker's strength lies in his use of data to provide surprising sidelights on oft-discussed topics, such as family, education, crime, and the economy; he notes, for instance, that the explosion in black illegitimacy rates merely mirrors that for society as a whole. When he forsakes his data and ventures into the murky realm of psychology, however, his conclusions are suspect (e.g., he implies that academic ``tracking'' is a form of segregation). Yet despite--sometimes even because of--these forays outside the traditional sphere of academic analysis, Hacker argues his points with cool elegance and conviction. In one instance, after his description of the humiliation that a black male feels after being bypassed by a white bus-driver, it seems pointless to dispute his belief that ``to be black is to be consigned to the margins of American life.'' Hacker's blurring of the distinctions between white ethnic groups and newer nonwhite immigrants is unfortunate, and his refusal to offer a way out of what Gunnar Myrdal called ``the American dilemma'' leaves the reader dispirited. But his insights into the racial wounds that refuse to close are searing, and urgently need to be addressed.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-684-19148-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1992


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