cover image Tragic Failure: Racial Integration in America

Tragic Failure: Racial Integration in America

Tom Wicker. William Morrow & Company, $25 (218pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10629-4

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 cliches; 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)