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The most interesting parts of this book deal with psychiatrist Comer's own experience as a black American and a professional achiever. He grew up in the middle-sized polyglot town of East Chicago. The church was the key black institution; he describes his horror when at 17 he took a job in a steel mill and saw the esteemed church elders working at the lowliest jobs and being treated like ""ordinary niggers."" At Howard Medical School Comer sought a black identity, relaxing from the bind of ""trying to 'carry the race'"" in integrated schooling and coming to see the race problem as part of ""the larger problem of human organization and function."" His review of black history in the U.S. and treatment of white racism is too much confined to ""the white mind"" and its myths, divorced from socioeconomic specifics. As compared with the effusions of Grier and Cobbs in Black Rage (1968), he is tentative about applying psychiatric constructs to racial problems, but goes so far as to suggest that ""the national ego did not adequately mature. The arrest is at a level close to that of the three- to six-year-old child. . . ."" More insistently, he stresses ""adaptive mechanisms"" to the point of romanticizing the black church. However, he deems socioeconomic powerlessness as least as important as family pathology and ""maladaptation"" per se. Comer's proposals echo the standard liberal emphasis on government spending for general uplift -- he is much impressed with Sweden. He recognizes a need to avoid racial divisiveness and competition over funding and spending but remains vague about who is to pay. His paramount reforms refer to campaign funding, Congressional seniority, regulatory agencies, and the like. Introduction by Robert Coles, foreword by Mayor Hatcher of Gary. A modest contribution, in both senses of the word.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1972
Publisher: Quadrangle