Tragic Failure: Racial Integration in America

Tragic Failure: Racial Integration in America

by Tom Wicker

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For twenty-five years Tom Wicker wrote for The New York Times with passion and intelligence, educating a generation of readers on important social and political issues of the day. In Tragic Failure, this keen observer assesses the failure of racial integration in America.

Thirty years after the landmark achievements of the civil rights movement in the


For twenty-five years Tom Wicker wrote for The New York Times with passion and intelligence, educating a generation of readers on important social and political issues of the day. In Tragic Failure, this keen observer assesses the failure of racial integration in America.

Thirty years after the landmark achievements of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, racial equality has made little progress and has, in fact, suffered setbacks as issues such as affirmative action, welfare reform, crime, and unemployment have made race the subtext for bitter political debate. Here, Mr. Wicker examines the current state of race relations and proposes some bold solutions-including major political realignment-to the disturbing and complex problems of race in America.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This book, misleadingly titled, is less a study of efforts at integration than a lament-plus-prescription concerning America's racial wounds. Former New York Times columnist Wicker, a white Southern liberal, now joins a significant segment of African Americans who believe they need economic empowerment as well as political power. Thus, he proposes that blacks ditch the Democratic Party to form a new party "dedicated to economic equality." Wicker's outrage at America's deferred dreams and white backlash seems genuine, and he argues effectively that President Clinton's crime and economic policies have done little for poor blacks. His notion of integration admirably avoids melting-pot clichs; rather, he aspires to a situation of "amity," respect and equality. But Wicker's prescription founders on some practicalities. His proposed party would seek race-neutral policies to uplift the poor and expand jobs through public works programs and enhanced education. However, it's hardly clear that black Americans would unite around a class-based crusade, which more logically might be the province of America's fading left wing and fractured labor movement. Author tour. (June)
Library Journal
Former New York Times columnist Wicker here considers the failure of integration in America. He argues that the turning point should have been President Johnson's signing of the 1965 Civil Rights bill, but Johnson's focus on the Vietnam War obstructed Martin Luther King's vision of racial equality. Wicker observes that the freedom and equality of African Americans have always been nonnegotiable with the white power structure and the poorest whites. Republicans have held the White House for most of the past three decades and have used stereotypes of African Americans to roll back any progress made through affirmative action. The Supreme Court, which was instrumental in opening doors, has reversed many decisions on leveling the playing field. Wicker concludes this thought-provoking book by arguig that both parties have sold out African Americans and that a third party is needed. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-Kevin Whalen, Union P.L., N.J.
Margaret Flanagan
A former "New York Times" political columnist asserts that attempts to achieve racial equality and integration in the U.S. have failed miserably. Despite the initial promise of the early civil rights movement, legislative measures have produced disappointing results. In fact, the political empowerment of black citizens never translated into the type of economic and social parity necessary to truly equalize opportunity and regard in American society. Instead, a thinly disguised backlash was fomented, prompting both Democratic and Republican politicians to adeptly exploit white disenchantment with affirmative action and racial integration. In the final analysis, Wicker argues, the formation of a new political party committed to the reality of economic growth and social inclusion for all races and classes is the only viable response to the current state of racial suspicion and unrest. An extremely thoughtful and cogent discourse on the dismal state of contemporary race relations.
Kirkus Reviews
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.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
6.47(w) x 9.51(h) x 0.92(d)

Meet the Author

Tom Wicker retired as a political columnist for The New York Times in 1991, having won numerous awards and accolades. Author of nine novels and five nonfiction books, he lives in New York City and Rochester, Vermont.

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