The Ambivalent Minority
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 Skerry (of the UCLA Center for American Politics and Public Policy) doesn't think that Mexican-Americans are ambivalent about being North Americans. Rather, the ``ambivalence'' of the subtitle reflects his skepticism as to whether Mexican-Americans are a minority requiring special consideration due to a history of exclusion, or whether their patterns of mobility and assimilation more closely mirror those of European immigrants. The author finds Mexican-Americans all but forced into playing the race game by the structure of contemporary politics, though more than 50% identified themselves in the 1990 Census as ``white.'' (His dismissal of race as a factor sometimes seems disingenuous, for example when he completely ignores cultural differences in identifying race--in Mexico, largely defined by lifestyle; in the US, by ancestry--and when he barely acknowledges the possibly different experiences of light-skinned Mexican- Americans and those of clearly Indian appearance.) But Skerry's comparative analysis of Mexican-American politics in San Antonio and Los Angeles is a provocative and enlightening study of the impact of local political structures on how groups can be empowered politically or how legalistic quick fixes (e.g., the Voting Rights Act) may merely satisfy ``an impatient society more concerned that the disadvantaged be formally represented than that their actual influence or power be enhanced.'' Going beyond the particular Mexican-American issues under discussion and his probably controversial critique of racial politics, Skerry brilliantly illuminates structural changes in American politics, with pertinent discussion of issue-oriented politics; community organizing; the decline of local parties; and consideration of relationships among the people, their leaders, and the government itself. With its pertinent analysis, this could be a contemporary political-science classic.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-02-929132-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1993


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