Taylor Jared - Paved With Good Intentions


Author : Taylor Jared
Title : Paved With Good Intentions The Failure of Race Relations in Contemporary America
Year : 1993

Link download : Taylor_Jared_-_Paved_With_Good_Intentions.zip

Acknowledgments. I am grateful to many people who gathered information for this book and who suggested improvements to the text. Byron Walker was an unfailing source of valuable material, and Thomas Jackson and Dr. Wayne Lutton supplied me with useful publications I would not normally have consulted. Carol Fusco tirelessly gathered newspaper clippings and read the manuscript with a critical eye. John Craig sent much useful material, and his comments greatly improved early versions of the text. Dr. Evelyn Rich found many invaluable references, and corrected later versions of the text with great patience and diligence. My editor, Kent Carroll, took a particular interest in the subject and devoted himself to an unusual degree to improving the manuscript. Finally, I am in deepest debt to my agent, Theron Raines, who was my most generous source of current information and without whose dedication this book would not have been published. Introduction. Race is the great American dilemma. This has always been so, and is likely to remain so. Race has marred our past and clouds our future. It is a particularly agonizing and even shameful dilemma because, in so many other ways, the United States has been a blessing to its people and a model for the world. The very discovery by Europeans of a continent inhabited by Indians was an enormous crisis in race relations-a crisis that led to catastrophe and dispossession for the Indians. The arrival of the first black slaves to Virginia in 1619 set in motion a series of crises that persist to the present. Indirectly, it brought about the bloodiest war America has ever fought, Reconstruction, segregation, the civil rights movement, and the seemingly intractable problems of today's underclass. Despite enormous effort, especially in the latter half of this century, those two ancient crises remain unresolved. Neither Indians nor blacks are full participants in America; in many ways they lead lives that lie apart from the mainstream. After 1965, the United States began to add two more racial groups to the uneasy mix that, in the heady days of civil rights successes, seemed finally on the road to harmony. In that year, Congress passed a new immigration law that cut the flow of immigrants from Europe and dramatically increased the flow from Latin America and Asia. Now 90 percent of all legal immigrants are nonwhite, and Asians and Hispanics have joined the American mix in large numbers. The United States has embarked on a policy of multiracial nation-building that is without precedent in the history of the world. Race is therefore a prominent fact of national life, and if our immigration policies remain unchanged, it will become an increasingly central fact. Race, in ever more complex combinations, will continue to be the great American dilemma. Nevertheless, even as the nation becomes a mix of many races, the quintessential racial divide in America-the subject of this book-is between black and white. Blacks have been present in large numbers and have played an important part in American history ever since the nation began. Unlike recent immigrants, who are concentrated in Florida, California, New York, and the Southwest, blacks live in almost all parts of the country. Many of our major cities are now largely populated and even governed by blacks. Finally, for a host of reasons, black/white frictions are more obtrusive and damaging than any other racial cleavage in America. In our multiracial society, race lurks just below the surface of much that is not explicitly racial. Newspaper stories about other things-housing patterns, local elections,. crime, antipoverty programs, law-school admissions, mortgage lending, employment rates-are also, sometimes only by implication, about race. When race is not in the foreground of American life, it does not usually take much searching to find it in the background. Race is a looming presence because it is a category that matters in nearly every way that we know how to measure. The statistical picture of black society, and the real world behind the statistics, are fundamentally different from the world in which whites live. From 1983 to 1988, the homicide rate for young black men increased by two thirds, while the rate· for young white men scarcely budged. Black men between ages fifteen and twenty-four are now nearly nine times as likely to kill each other as are whites of the same ages,l and homicide has become the leading cause of death for all black men between ages fifteen and forty-four. Murder has become so common that it has dragged down the overall life expectancy for blacks for the fourth straight year, and that of black men for the fifth year in a row. Life expectancy for whites increased or held steady.2 In Harlem, there are so many killings that a black man living there is less likely to reach age sixty-five than is a man living in Bangladesh.3 One in four black men in their twenties is either in jail, on parole, or on probation.4 This is approximately ten times the rate for whites of the same age.5 Though they are only 12 percent of the population, blacks commit more than half of all rapes and robberies and 60 percent of the murders in America.6 Other measures are just as grim. From 1985 to 1990, while syphilis rates for whites continued their long-running decline, they rose 126 percent for black men and 231 percent for black women. Blacks are now fifty times more likely to have syphilis than whites.7 Blacks have the highest infant mortality rates for any American racial group and are twice as likely as whites to die in their first year.8 Black children are four times as likely as whites to be living in poverty,9 and less than half as likely to be living with two parents.10 Illegitimacy rates for blacks have climbed steadily, and now more than 66 percent of all black children are born out of wedlock. The rate for whites is 19 percent.11 Young blacks are half as likely to be working as young whites,12 and at some urban high schools, nearly 70 percent fail to graduate. 13 The median net worth for a black family is only $3,397, lessjt-than one eleventh that of a white family.14 Blacks are more than four and a half times more likely than whites to be on public assistance,15 and even after welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing, the median black household income is only 64 percent of the white median.16 Just one or two of these numbers would be evidence of a nation gone wrong. Thken together, they are a catastrophe-and in the time since they were collected, many have gotten worse. H the races were statistically indistinguishable, or if the advantages were evenly distributed, race might be nothing more than an anthropological curiosity. Unfortunately, the differences are both stark and consistent. They explain why race is the fearful question that looms behind every social problem in America. "Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white-separate and unequal."17 This is the most famous sentence in the six-hundred-page Kerner Commission report, published after the race riots of the 1960s. Despite the social programs that the report called for, and despite the progress that blacks have made in some areas, the numbers just cited suggest that our nation has been unable to halt the drift toward two societies. Something has gone badly wrong. The civil rights movement, which seemed to point the way to unity, has become a divisive struggle for group rights rather than individual freedom. There is very little left of the confidence with which America marched toward the 1970s. Despite the best efforts of an admittedly imperfect society, many of the changes of the past quarter century have been for the worse. What happened? One of the most· important things that happened is that America's thinking about race hardened into doctrine. On the surface, it might seem otherwise. America often gives the impression of tackling problems of race head on. No other nation in the world has such elaborate mechanisms for taking its own racial temperature or for dissecting the racial implications of every new policy or proposal. There are civil rights acts, equal housing acts, voting rights acts, and commissions and bureaucracies to enforce them .. Minority groups have their own organizations that seek out discrimination and prod the nation toward ever-greater awareness of their needs. Local governments, universities, and businesses employ thousands of people to ensure equal opportunity in every area of American life. Our society is officially -and officiously-race-conscious. At the same time, the race-relations industry operates according to assumptions that have not changed in thirty years. Official thinking about race is a closed book. Despite OUI; obvious failure to reach the racial solutions that seemed within our grasp, any new thinking about race, any departure from the assumptions of the 1960s has become heresy. We have made race such a grim and serious thing that we may speak of it only in a handful of approved phrases. Our very thoughts have become as stilted as our speech. Race is therefore not only the great dilemma, it is also the great paradox. It is in race relations that America has gone most obviously wrong, yet it is about race that we dare not think anything new or different. If there is a body of thought that shows all the signs of doctrinaire rigidity, willful ignorance, and even duplicity, it is what is thought and said about race. It is where we are failing the worst. that honesty and clear thinking are least welcome. Because the field is so dominated by doctrine, public debate about race is as stylized and as predictable as the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Stylized thinking does not solve problems. It makes them worse. Orthodoxies do not survive unless they are shored up by the forces of· authoritarian righteousness. And indeed, race relations give rise to beliefs that are virtually religious. It is one of the few subjects about which one may hold a considered position that others will say is not simply wrong but also evil. An imprudent word or ill-chosen phrase can ruin a career; an unguarded comment can make a man be considered unfit to hold public office. There is no other subject in America-not sex, not religion, not drugs, not abortion-about which the forces of orthodoxy are so monolithic and unforgiving. Naturally, this gives rise to heresies, large and small. Sometimes they break out with a peculiar viciousness of their own, in acts of racial hatred. But more often they lead to cynicism and hypocrisy, to private· exchanges of taboo opinions. Anyone who searches his memory-or his conscience-knows that there is no other subject about which public pronouncements diverge so sharply from private opinions. This would be nothing more than a huge, ironic joke were the subject not one that is crucial to America's future. Lives, public policies, reputations, perhaps eveIi the social order are at stake. We cannot afford to be limited by rigid thinking. An atmosphere of heresy-hunting is not one thatleads to understanding. We must set forth the facts of our racial problems without forcing them to fit fruitless conventions. In a metaphor that is both poetic and disturbing, the essayist Wendell Berry calls American race. relations "the hidden wound."18 A hidden wound cannot be treated. This one is festering so deeply that it threatens the health of the entire body politic. People from every political perspective agree that race relations are a horrible wound crying out for healing. But there can be no cure without correct diagnosis. Correct diagnosis is impossible without honest, even fearless investigation. ...

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