THE WHITE USE OF BLACKS IN AMERICA by Dan Lacy

THE WHITE USE OF BLACKS IN AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Exactly why Lacy, Senior Vice-President of McGraw-Hill and very much a weekend historian, chose to write this superfluous essay is difficult to understand; perhaps it has to do with his Southern heritage or his long dedication to civil libertarian values. Whatever the reason, he must know (indeed his bibliography tells him so) that a flock of social scientists with far more impressive credentials have treated the history of American blacks and racism from an economic determinist position with much greater assurance, persuasiveness, knowledgeability, eloquence, and completeness than he is able to here. For the record, Lacy traces the origins of the race problem in this country to the ruling whites' desire and need for a pool of cheap unskilled-semiskilled labor; all influential white American institutions (""the state, the churches, the schools, the press, society generally"") have conspired throughout the republic's history to keep blacks in a state of modern serfdom. In the process the ""dehumanization of the Negro"" occurred, i.e., ""the conviction that blacks were a different and inferior group of beings. . . unintelligent and improvident but also wild and dangerous."" Whites' despisement of the black man grew proportionately with his exploitation and self-abnegation. The society's need for slaves-serfs, however, has been rapidly decreasing since World War II (""between 1940 and 1970 in spite of sharp increases in population and in total output, it needed about 4,000,000 fewer men for unskilled and semiskilled work""); now, argues Lacy, is the perfect time for whites to commit themselves to the concepts of racial integration and black equality: the blacks' 300-year labor is completed, the rising dole and the Wattses tell us so. This is a perfectly clear, valid thesis which can be vigorously contested at any number of turns, not least of which is that one-way determinist street. But why get into old arguments?

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1971
Publisher: Atheneum