cover image Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America

Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America

F. Michael Higginbotham. New York Univ., $29.95 (316p) ISBN 978-0-8147-3747-7

Challenging the notion that history has finally produced a post-racial America, University of Baltimore law professor Higginbotham (Race Law: Cases, Commentary, and Questions) contributes an indispensable perspective on an enduring “racial paradigm” in contemporary American society, while insisting, with concrete proposals, that true racial equality remains within reach. Despite undeniable progress and real gains for African-Americans (and other minorities) since 1954’s landmark Brown v. Board decision, the author points to the “astonishing” socioeconomic gap persisting between whites and blacks. Dismissing conservative arguments that devolve responsibility for the lasting socioeconomic gap solely onto blacks themselves, Higginbotham’s historical analysis (resting on legal case histories and an extensive secondary literature) describes an interdependent set of structural and cultural factors: false beliefs of white superiority on the one hand, black victimization on the other, sustained by notions of racial hierarchy. With the aim of ending the paradigm, Higginbotham recommends several reasoned, if familiar, liberal panaceas, including expanding successful affirmative action strategies, acknowledging racism publically, and issuing reparations for its historically harmful effects. These may well prove the most contentious aspects of his narrative, but the solutions are put forward in a preliminary manner, inviting further discussion. His preceding careful analysis is the more concrete offering, and makes clear the necessity of such discussions. (Mar.)