THE NEW AMERICANS: How the Melting Pot Can Work Again
Barone, a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report and co-author of the Almanac of American Politics, argues that minority groups of today resemble the immigrant groups of the previous century in important ways. Black migrants who left the rural South for the industrial cities of the North resemble today's Irish immigrants; coming from places where they were second-caste citizens, both have eschewed entrepreneurship and suffered high crime rates. Italian immigrants, like today's Latinos (especially Mexicans), came from countries where the government and culture discouraged trust in institutions; both have prized work over politics. Both Jews and East Asians have relied on strong families and educational attainment to move into the American mainstream. The lesson of past assimilation, according to Barone, is that to succeed, groups must "transform dysfunctional habits of mind" and adopt others "that are functional in this new country." Yet while his historical analogies can be convincing, their policy implications are unclear. Barone believes that the main obstacles facing blacks are the policies of the American elite—racial quotas and preferences that sustain a sense of racial grievance—but strangely, he downplays job and education policy. Sometimes he seems to minimize the present-day challenges of assimilation, quoting sociologist Orlando Patterson's sanguine assertion that America's racial divide is "fading fast"—ignoring the fact that intermarriage statistics for blacks are much lower than those of any of the other groups he discusses in the book, suggesting something enduring about the aftermath of American slavery. Still, despite its flaws, this is a provocative read. (June)
Forecast:This book seems almost certain to attract review attention, especially given the prominence of the author, a McLaughlin Groupregular.