RACE IN THE MIND OF AMERICA by Paul L. Wachtel

RACE IN THE MIND OF AMERICA

Breaking the Vicious Circle Between Blacks and Whites

KIRKUS REVIEW

Some remedies for a racial stalemate. Wachtel, a practicing psychotherapist and director of the Colin Powell Center for Policy Studies at the City College of New York (The Poverty of Affluence: A Psychological Portrait of the American Way of Life, 1983, etc.), posits that blacks and whites have labored mightily for years over their racial differences—but instead of arriving at solutions, they—ve merely reached a stalemate. In that sense, he argues, the two are like a dog in hot pursuit of its own tail, spinning endlessly and getting nowhere fast. Wachtel doesn’t put it quite that way, of course, but does suggest that there’s a good deal wrong with the very language used by blacks and whites, not to mention their apparently shortsighted view of history. Does calling someone “racist,” for example, have the same impact as it once did? Wachtel thinks not. Moreover, what many blacks view as racist behavior in whites may in fact be indifference, a worse disease in Wachtel’s estimation. Along the way, the author takes an occasional jab at fellow social scientists. But in the case of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein (authors of The Bell Curve), it’s several swipes: He notes that time was when groups now riding at the top of their curve—Jews and Asians—once skulked at the bottom. Their IQ test scores changed, he notes, with a bettering of their social status. Wachtel claims that “racism” is too loaded a term and that “affirmative action” generates more heat than light. Perhaps the former term ought to be used in more clear-cut cases and the latter retired in word, if not in deed. Regardless, his recommendations are sure to anger those on either side of the racial equation. Thoughtful and sophisticated reading for anyone with more than a casual interest in race.

Pub Date: March 24th, 1999
ISBN: 0-415-92000-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Routledge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1999




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