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Unformatted text preview: ,7 _ j ,r : MEN” 2“ “mar; 50 a m J“ _ INTRODUCTION (3 {.23 W‘l'lh‘ ‘l V flgkcd‘z I Gr .5: l ’ l The Unsteady March Cheer-35116631 ptgl ie-{j ‘ There is something too mean in looking upon the Negro, when you are in trouble as a Citizen, and when you are free from trouble, as an alien. . . . He has been a citizen just three times in the history of this government, and it has always been in times of trouble. In time of trouble we are citizens. Shall we be citizens in war, and aliens in peace? Would that be just? —Frederick Douglass, “What the Black Man Wants” (1865) the first president elected from a southern state since the Civil War—ma proud son of that great pillar of the Confederacy, the State of Texas—responded to searing controversies over civil rights by proposing the Voting Rights Act. It aimed to make African Americans full and equal citizens of the United States in every re— spect. It was time, Lyndon johnson solemnly told the nation, for ‘ America finally to “make good the promise of democracy.” He in— ; sisted to his fellow white citizens that “it is not just Negroes, but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.” “And,” he said, borrowing from the spiri- tual that had so greatly inspired civil rights activists, “we shall over come."1 It is hard for many Americans today to understand just how asa tonishing and compelling it was to hear that president say those words in his unreconstructed Texas drawl. It is hard now because for more than thirty years we Americans have told ourselves that what many were then saying, with more hope than confidence, was "'i in fact simply true. We reassure ourselves that sooner or later the United States had to have passed the Voting Rights Act and other measures overthrowing older laws that had discriminated against T here came a time when justice seemed at hand at last. In 1965, , _s=,-.,.i.‘_.:.s=,;t.:= :.'..:'_->'..=.";;..;a'e..3\saksia'wiuvm use, 1 1.1 BRAMER§EEA€Ek§JRk¥EEEE¢1§3 = Wumznm—MY. ...,[ ! INTRODUCTION olitics and in virtually every other sphere of life. Racial natibnl'we now often believe, violates and had always vi0+ Americans deepest values. Many of us believe that as a result 'hé'sé’éha values, our history has been a slow, difficult, but steady Hall toward laying to rest the unfortunate prejudices we inherited fr mtlour distant past. It could not, we like to think, really have been otherwise. it is important to remember that in 1965, as for all of our nation’s . ‘previous history, the statement “We shall overcome” was far more an expression of faith, hope, and prayer than a confident prediction. Many white Americans regarded any political invocation of those three words as a dangerously radical threat, usually advanced by disreputable, trouble—making blacks and their wild—eyed white agita— tor allies. In 1965, progress toward racial justice was still so recent and so bitterly contested that it was hard not to harbor doubts about whether the forces of white supremacy would ever truly yield. After all, Alabama, the scene of the most violent civil rights protests in 1965, was governed by another southern white man, George Corley Wallace, who had proclaimed only two years before that the policy of the “Great Anglo—Saxon Southland” was “Segregation now . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever!M And in 1965, many more Americans knew that until World War II, most American lead— ers, north and south, had matter—ofsfactly defended white suprem— acy, segregation, and racial hierarchy in rhetoric far more similar to George Wallace’s than to Lyndon Johnson’s. To many reform— minded citizens, black and white, lohnson’s speech seemed to be not so much a rouu‘nely predictable culmination of its egalitarian history as a breath—taking miracle. It is not our thesis in this book that Iohnson’s speech or the sub— sequent passage of the muscular and extraordinme effective Vot- ing Rights Act of 1965 Were miracles. Neither, however, do we share the complacent conventional wisdom that has come to prevail in its wake—that the nation’s movement toward greater racial equal—v ity was somehow preordained by the characteristics and the princi— ples of the American founding, the American national soul, or the broader tides of modern world history. That wisdom looks increas— ingly dubious today, a generation after enactment of the Voting Rights Act, as explosive racial divisions continue to plague American life, having only grown more complex and perplexing as the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity has increased. We have been driven to write this book by concerns about current events, but it responds Tar UNSTEADY MARCH 1 3 ' eral and enduring question: Under what circumstances to a more gen made significant progress toward greater racial has the Ummd States d ' fol o ortunities for all its . . toward more equal an meanmg pp ' | h _ lulflh‘ltants no matter how society class1fies them In racral or et me in a , termsz t t here to explore this question in its full complexity, myth/1:3; Irlflan;y racial and ethnic groups. We focus on the relatict); ' between whites and blacks that have PIOVIdCd, we argue, fulfills tern late for American racial hierarchies, one that has shaped tlalZIZtatuslles of all other American groups. Nor do we atterplp’pthglel an elaborate empirical causal analys1s of our central quesgo .e have take many studies to do such work persuaswelygnstea 1, wt What combed through American history and arrived in ucipve yta make seems to us the most likely answer, for reasons we ope o 0mm clear. It is an answer that ought to be sub1ecte-d1:o]:nore rrignswer testing by appropriate specialists. But wealso thin t1 or: that we is so significant to contemporary American race. re a 1011haltic and feel compelled to lay out our claims, and-to do so 1n as empti {mom accessible a manner as possible, prior to such lengthy ingest gbin 1 . Although our answer is only suggestive, it 1s, we believe. is SUeg , plausible. It is plausible because vast stretches of our irrationae if Guy cry out in support of our argument. It is disturbing decaus , belief answer is correct, we Americans must not only aban on our f m that there was anything inevitable about the overcoming fo tLer Crow laws in the 19608. We must also recognize soberly ft at .glirdivp progress toward a just and harmonious. overcoming olrac1 e as a sions and inequalities might not occur in our time un ess winder— people make extraordinary efforts of a sort we have never taken before except under the most extreme duress. I h! t In brief, our answer is that at least so far in Americ-alp is plri'y, substantial progress toward greater {never yet full)drap1 egg; h: has come only when three factors have concurre . rogr come only 1 in the wake of a large—scale war requiring extens1ve eco— nomic and military mobilization of African Amencans for success; | I- 2 when the nature of America’s enemies has prompted Amen can leaders to justify such wars and their attendant sacr1fices by emphasizing the nation’s inclusive, egalitarian, and demo— cratic traditions; and INTRODUCTION 3. when the nation has possessed domestic political protest movements willin leaders to live up domestic reforms. g and able to bring pressure upon national , to that justificatory rhetoric by instituting We do not say that these three conditions must always be present for progress to occur. We do say that, thus far, substantial progress has never occurred without these three factors present and working together. The essential evidence for our argument is that there have been only three eras of significant progress toward greater racial equality in US. history, in each of which these factors have been at work. The initial reform era was the First Emancipation following the Rev— olutionary War, when slavery was put on the path of extinction lessened even in much of the South. The Revolution had been fought in the name of republicanism and inalienable human rights against a monarchical foe. It was won with key contributions from American blacks. And it was accompanied by white and black relifi gious movements, especiall , that highlighted the contradictions be tween the Declaration of In dependence and the continuation of ificant reform era was the Reconstruc— . That massive struggle probably could not have been won without black soldiers. It led to the postwar constitutional amendments that ended slavery and established for— mally equal black citizenship, in accordance with the insistent de— mands of black and white aboliuonists. The third reform period is the modern civil rights era, occurring in the wake of World War II and during the Cold War, including its “hot” Korean and Vietnamese 0 1968 framed an extraor ‘ of civil rights protesters pus Americans. In between the first two refo toward racial equality ceased in many areas whites constructed n significantly eroded previous ad rm eras, as we shall see, progress most arenas of American life. In ew systems of racial hierarchy that vances. Today, after the fall of the 5 THE UNSTEADY MARCH 6 end of the Cold War, the forces that pressed '- 7' - owerfully for so long in modern American mill" equality SO P 11 not vanished). Whether the nation wall gag-am Irecede'd (bhfouirogress in a racially egalitarian direction Elem-£1658 commit important political question facing the United We. think, thfeinthe twenty-first century. From our reading of the lites as wefefie resent in light of the lessons of the past, we regret- :h'eadhnes cll 1foo Labundant cause for concern. .Vfl I hts fully see a ‘ thus consistent with the old adage of (:1 rig our Stgry ls te s forward, one step back.” We stress, however, ' workers, TWI: Stwlb steps forward have come in concentrated burcgts that thus fell: t e ears. The one step back, in contrast, has repeate y Of ten to El tlienslfride covering a period of sixty to seventy—five year; ' been a lengt Yrmal experience of the typical black person in U. . Hence the 1:1; to live in a time of stagnation and decline in progress hlsmry hassle e uality. That reality helps explain the deep pessrmigm thwalcldjswnfale in the outlook even of more affluent blacks to ay a on . , East-3 . land mhm:::lrr(:itsrfinilserd:i:srl:ason why no part of our argument is whsclllcy niw with us, even though it will bq ugconglfiglgstggaplyé ' ‘ ' ' ' ternationa a airs ~ - Broa'dly hPealljbeiigrb:lfieicili:lel:fisali:in:l influences and domestic politics, rah/Hons IP in which wartime exigencies can lead to the expan51on and't‘he whys ri hts 4 In the case of civil rights for black Americans; Of Cltlzells klp chgolars in particular have stressed the importance 0 many b activsatin previous racial reforms. As the excerpt quoted at warhn J‘no' of fhis Introduction suggests, perhaps the first forgiu— th‘l egifnlil'ngthesis was offered by the great antislavery leader Fre e}:- laml? 0 la: He suggested blacks had been treated as Citizens of; e llllfiiteiiusgtates only in military rarilEs dpring the 1§6:§;u::1r;a:ge “:3, 1812, and the Civil War an , we wou , I . liregfgal): struggles had any enduring impact oiF-i peggptgrpiyraigaé es). More recent observers, such as Mary ran . b tween Stalls Ben'amin Quarles, have also made the connection eh I blacth’emilitzlry service and their citizen rights.5 In paraculllar, sth; ab 5 Derrick Bell, Mary Dudziak, and Iohn Slcrentny ave.1 I hts sue ah ' eratives of the Cold War were cruCial to the curl Irig f :dldc:snblf> the 19503 and 19603.6 The distinguisheddhgstionr1:nki:w American nativism, lohn Higham, has recently conteri e ” He sees dred vein that America has had “three Reconstrucc‘.1’tiqlns.C 01d war the Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II, an t e , trUlel-J-and th INTRODUCTION panying defenses cast in dem0c ' ' ' ' - I ratic, logical terms, as Vital catalysts to periods of racial mduswe' {deal reinforcing the efforts of Progress} decmvely Civil htS activists But ma 5] EH: -V b V ' () Zed I ‘a P t3 t1 6 Elna - I p yStS a. t: rfic gm he mp Ct SChOlam and dfiz ’ y, it remains an insight many American ens resrst. Its acceptance is blocked by widespread ew of American racial ' was H . ' progress. That v1 we summarized in a passage by historian Philip Gleason iii: ard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic ward an ethnically defined concept of nationality ” Siveness _ But this “exclu— . ran contrary to the logic of the defining p ' character and power ofAmeri— .. princi les” and ' ' ' almost natural Progres p the optimistic story of steady, ‘ s toward racial e ali b . I qu ty that sch l t :pgp 1:.1‘ As Rogers Snnth has detailed, America: militia: ideal Sgpres ea: til-1:3: iorfiained “multiple traditions,” includiljig Chic 1 e ’ ' People) Spadafly equip mencans as In many respects God’s chosen . ped by nature and ' . . . 1 , . prowdenc f lber 3. and POhtlcal Self"governance in ways thatebl::l::dINWail$d THE UNSTEADY MARCH 7 g: flip-shaved to be misguided and destructive radical egalitari— -- - 7. n—j Hwe'are right that Americans have long had ample 1deologi— It 31" - Chi-«56's for not only justifying but glorifying racial inequalities, ‘ .Heh it 'l-S' difficult to have so much confidence that the “national d—ééflogy” will Predictably work toward the expansion of civil rights if Americans only recall it rightly.g I To be sure, the racialist strains in American ideology probably - gained their pOWer originally from desires to justify the institution _ of chattel slavery as Well as the seizure of land from the native tribes, I and those economic roots of racism are now part of the nation’s I' past. But racial hierarchies were then embodied in virtually every " institution of American lifeepolitical, economic, educational, reli— gious, cultural and social-why the time of the Revolutionary War. They were supported by most American governments throughout most of our history and still persist on a de facto basis today. With the great sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois, we believe that the attachment of American whites to our country’s longstanding racial ordering soon became not only and perhaps even not chiefly a matter of economic interests, although those interests are a major part of the story. Throughout most of our history, white Americans have also received a “psychological wage,” to use Du Bois’s term, from living in a society in which members of their racial group occupy the leading positions in most institutions.l0 This favored status has meant that whites are commonly accepted as the “normal” and norm—setting, and hence really the most pres— tigious, members of American society. People who have grown up within arrangements in which their group regularly receives special social esteem as well as more material benefits, arrangements that seem so familiar as to be virtually natural, are always likely to find changes in those arrangements disquieting. l’redictably, they will look for reasOns to confine and condemn them. Our fellow white Americans, we firmly believe, are not people any more inherently prone to racism, selfishness, or evil than any other group in this or any other society. Their attachments to familiar ways are perfectly normal and human, and in many regards such attachments can rightly be cherished. But in American society, whites happen to be the group who have historically had the upper hand; and so many of their understandable attachments to the status quo, often accom— panied by genuine good will toward others, nonetheless have always worked against overcoming real and severe injustices. We confront here almost the political equivalent of a Newtonian law: bodies in power tend to stay in power unless acted upon by outside forces. 8 INTRODUCTION Even if there are economic benefits to egalitarian reforms, many whites consciously or unconsciously experience the loss of the spe— cially privileged status they have long enjoyed as a cost too high to pay. If there are not unusually strong imperatives to do so, most simply cannot be expected to pay that price.11 Finally, ‘as political scientists we must insist that any analysis of the prospects for reform in America ultimately must come to grips with the incentives that shape the behavior of political parties, for little change can come without strong support from at least one major party. Even if there are pOWerful elements in American na— tional ideology supporting equal rights for all, no party is likely to push with equal power for the full realization of those ideals unless it can hope to garner support in the form of votes and dollars by doing so. And in a country in which votes and dollars have always been predominantly in white hands, parties will usually have strong incentives to support equal rights symbolically, perhaps, but to back off any strong push to make substantive changes. At least, that will be the case if whites have any normal propensity to resist change in arrangements that benefit them. Again, barring exceptional cir- cumstances, we doubt that leaders of major political parties are likely today, any more than in the past, to champion policies that erode rather than reinforce the advantages of those groups who are most numerous, most affluent, and most politically powerful. The United States is a complex and diverse society, but it is still one in which in most regards middle—class and upper~class whites are best positioned. Indeed, the political advantages of whites have in the past and the present led political leaders most often to uphold rather than con— demn America’s racial hierarchy.12 Hence we feel compelled in this book to sound a note of alarm. There is still much to overcome if we are to achieve a racially equal, free, and harmonious society. Given what it has taken to bring about meaningful and enduring change in the past, it is hard to believe that Americans will confront and master the difficult challenges we face in race relations simply as a matter of course. There is, fortunately, reason to believe that egalitarian changes can be catalyzed today without our having to suffer anything akin to the major wars that have triggered transformations in the past. We shall see that, although racial progress has not been either inevi— table or irreversible in America, it has been in significant ways cumu— lative. The moral and material victories of the modern civil rights movement in particular mean that it is now much harder to defend invidious racial discrimination than in the past. Demographically, 9 THE UNSTEADY MARCH 1:; intellectually, proponents of racial equality now Billie-re resources they can employ to push for change, marl 7, 1'Jfilflce'lamelcl unjust racial inequalities persist. Precisely be— Iex't'ensw‘e aoIiir circumstances makes complacency about these 31.515618 'EI'BUCh 1nfortable, there is, We think, little genuine reason for 1'" Fall-fies C011illout the prospects for racial progress today. Still, p011- Cd'm‘p'lacenly a'n which analysts can only discern tendencies, proba— gg’s‘r'ls “a ma ml1 s and opportunities, never certainties. It is not easy billings, ObStaCs:ihle to swim against the tide, taking advantage ofall hljt, alszYS P0 tercurrents. In the end, our political fate is something val-flame COlmsi nificant powers to choose and determine. It is be it‘hat we hellish imericans can and should choose to commit theme call-156 :6;1:) overcoming our deepest and most enduring national :se ves . ' hat divisions not because we believe they cannot or mu not do 301 t J we have Written this book. ...
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This note was uploaded on 01/11/2012 for the course RACE REL 790:333 taught by Professor Williegin during the Fall '11 term at Rutgers.

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R31 - ,7 j,r MEN” 2“ “mar 50 a m J“...

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