A RAP ON RACE by Margaret Mead


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This encounter of scientific optimism and poetic pessimism has a 'ships that pass in the night' quality. Momentary illuminations flicker and fade into a jumble of psychological, historic, scientific and personal observations, intuitions and forebodings punctuated by assurances that Jimmy and Margaret at least can communicate and this is surely a GOOD THING. Ranging from New Guinea to Harlem to Paris and back again in search of psychohistorical as well as racial identities ("The one thing you really ought to be allowed to choose is your ancestors"), both look with dismay at the anti-historical, revolutionary romanticism of the kids: "To the extent that he doesn't have any past, he's trapped in it." Baldwin admits to difficulties in identifying with black Africans, dashikis and Afro haircuts. Keeping up with the changing language is a problem -- "Have you learned to say Chicano yet?" Mead looks forward to the end of archaic institutions and to civilization run on a rational, planetary basis; Baldwin is still haunted by the fire next time and doubts whether Mr. Charlie can relinquish his hegemony without precipitating Armageddon. The suspicion that "what we call racism would seem to be endemic in human nature" is dangled and dropped and the subject of miscegenation is never raised. Neither a confrontation nor a meeting of minds, this is only occasionally right on.
Pub Date: May 24th, 1971
Publisher: Lippincott
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1971


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