TRAGIC FAILURE by Tom Wicker

TRAGIC FAILURE

Racial Integration in America

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The former New York Times columnist builds a thorough, damning indictment of America's retreat from racial integration. It's no surprise to hear that integration has failed. High rates of poverty, incarceration, and unemployment tell the statistical tale of black disadvantage. Polarized reactions to O.J. Simpson's acquittal and the 1994 Republican ascendancy--in a campaign fought in a racial code that attacked welfare and affirmative action--dramatize the lingering depth and breadth of racial division. What is surprising is how early the retreat began. Only two years after the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Wicker argues, whites realized integration was to be a national, not merely a southern, transformation. Unwilling to sacrifice or suffer inconveniences to benefit blacks, whites spurned Democratic racial liberalism by awarding Republicans major congressional gains in 1966 and by supporting the presidential bids of racist demagogue George Wallace. Wicker astutely identifies fear as a prime motivator of white backlash and patiently attacks the cultural myths and distortions that feed it. An unabashed liberal, the veteran journalist lays blame for political foot-dragging at the doorstep of Republican presidents who've ruled all but two terms since the 1960s. But he also skewers Democrats for abandoning black interests while taking African-American support for granted. Wicker expects neither party to address ``the continuing, the cancerous, the unconfronted American dilemma'' of race. He calls for a third party dedicated to providing opportunity for the poor, contending that only economic opportunity will bring social equality. Though he underplays the considerable roadblocks to third-party participation, he cites demographic trends that suggest growing minorities could constitute a plausible political force. Wicker's historical analysis of the social cost of continuing inequality is an invaluable corrective to conservative attacks on affirmative action and a sobering condemnation of America's unwillingness to do the right thing. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-688-10629-3
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996




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