cover image Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations

Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations

Joe R. Feagin, Author Routledge $130 (311p) ISBN 978-0-415-92531-0

Feagin's voluminous, relentless book testifies to both the strengths and the flaws of applying a sociological approach to the intricate issues of racism in America. Most social scientists, according to this sociologist at the University of Florida (White Racism, etc.) and president of the American Sociological Association, see racism ""as something tacked on to an otherwise healthy American society."" But Feagin contends that the system embeds racism at the core, from the Constitution to the legacy of slavery and segregation in retarding black economic advancement. He argues aptly that color-blind ideology ""provides a veneer of liberality"" for those unwilling to recognize how race has shaped America, while those who lump blacks with white immigrant groups ignore the effects of racial discrimination. But Feagin's approach surely sacrifices complexity. Are ""racist pressures against interracial marriage"" solely the product of white racism? If achievement tests are so biased toward the white middle class, then why do some Asian immigrants do well on them? Feagin calls for a large-scale educational campaign to move whites to confront ""the reality of the pain that their system of racism has caused"" and a new constitutional convention to incorporate ""the group interests and rights of all Americans of color."" He also calls for individual and group reparations for blacks. (But how exactly would a ""black community"" be determined?) Feagin doesn't engage those who argue that class-based remedies may be better than race-based ones--another flaw in a book full of strong yet poorly articulated arguments. (Aug.)