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Wilson+Declining+Signif - REVIEWS THE DECLINING...

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REVIEWS THE DECLINING SIGNIFICANCE OF RACE IN AMERICA By William Julius Wilson (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979, 216 pp., $12.50) There have been a number of works discussing the interaction between race and class in America. Some of the recent ones have argued implicitly, if not directly, that today Afro-Americans and other minorities may be discriminated against not so much on the basis of race but rather on the basis of class. Nathan Glazer has argued that all poor immigrant groups have faced discrimination in their early states of migration to America. ~ But, says he, the American creed of equality eventually became an integrating force for these groups. Ethnicity is becoming less important as a basis of group discrimination. This suggests that discrimina- tion against Blacks will decrease as members of this group become socially and economically mobile. Edward Banfield ignores, for all intents and purposes, any role that racial motivations may have as an explanation of discrimination against Blacks. ~ He suggests very strongly that the discrimination encountered by Blacks is based on cultural and class considerations rather than racial considerations. And Thomas Sowell believes that racism can be explained by its economic component; and once racism becomes economically unprofitable it will cease to exist) He also believes that the attitudes characteristic of minorities may be as important a reason for their social status as any supposedly racist behavior on the part of American social and economic institutions. William Wilson in his book The Declining Significance of Race has written that his study has revealed that although racial opression, when viewed from the broad perspective of historical change in American society, was a salient and important feature during the pre-industrial and the industrial periods of race relations in the United States, the problems of subordination for certain segments of the black population and the experiences of social advance- ment for others are more directly associated with economic class in the modern industrial period. Wilson relies on a macrosociological overview of American economic history. He examines the relationship between different industrial stages and the economic mobility patterns of Blacks. He found that in the present economic stage the income gap between the black middle class and the white middle class is decreasing while the gap between the poor Black and the black middle class is
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REVIEWS 453 increasing. The author writes that "the recent mobility patterns of blacks lend strong support to the view that economic class is clearly more important than race in predetermining job placement and occupational mobility." It is argued that racism as a tool of economic oppression is no longer considered by the American corporate establishment. Class rather than race is a better explanation of job market discrimination faced by the black population. Wilson claims that his
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