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BY THE COLOR OF OUR SKIN by Leonard Steinhorn


The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race

by Leonard Steinhorn & Barbara Diggs-Brown

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1999
ISBN: 0-525-94359-5
Publisher: Dutton

The authors revisit an old subject to shed belated tears for an honorable notion. Unfortunately, much of their talk about busing, white flight, and even affirmative action seems familiar to the point of staleness—familiar because the authors, both professors of communication at American University, haven—t extended their fact-gathering much beyond recycled 1960s periodical data. So why, according to Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown, hasn—t integration lived up to its promise? As they tell it, the source of the problem lies with American conventional wisdom on the subject: After legislation passed in the 1960s outlawing discrimination and segregation, most people seem to believe that racism can no longer exist. That conviction, contend Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown, is only (and ironically) bolstered by the prominence and influence of Colin Powell, Michael Jordan, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, and hundreds of other powerful African-Americans. As these observations indicate, much of the book relies less on original research or insight than on bromide and truism. Cited as an example of how we fool ourselves over integration’s failure, for instance, is the Motown Sound played throughout the movie The Big Chill. As the authors conclude triumphantly, whites in real life listen to entirely different radio stations than blacks. Rather than investigate the phenomenon known as “wiggers”—young whites who hang out with blacks—Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown accept the traditional putdown that these youngsters are mere wannabes. Statistics are duly presented to show that hardly five percent of American communities enjoy enough of a racial mix to be considered integrated today. Still, the authors take solace from the fact that communities like Shaker Heights, Ohio, provide proof that integration can indeed work. Integration may have failed, for the most part. But Steinhorn and Diggs-Brown don—t bring us any closer to understanding why. (Author tour)