Long Way to Go: Black and White in America

Jonathan Coleman, Author Atlantic Monthly Press $26.5 (464p) ISBN 978-0-87113-692-3
Trying to get a handle on our nation's racial dilemmas, Coleman (Exit the Rainmaker) visited Milwaukee regularly over a period of years and recruited a diverse cast of characters for this wide-ranging narrative. He meets blacks who claim victimization and others emphasizing self-reliance; he finds racist whites at a workshop that forces them to confront their unspoken privilege (like the capacity to go shopping without harassment). ""Equality in law was not equality in fact,"" Coleman declares, noting how blacks still lack power and acceptance. But he also portrays an activist-turned-schools superintendent, Howard Fuller--the book's most interesting character--who prods his students to discern when race and class matter and when they don't. The author backhandedly defends affirmative action but calls it mostly irrelevant to the ghetto poor. On the question of race outside the underclass, he urges whites to move beyond racism and blacks beyond victimhood. But his exhortation, ""Each of us must be allowed to be who we are, and to be respected for who we are,"" begs a large question: how do public policies affect how blacks are treated? Though lacking the statistical analysis that would sort out policy questions, the book remains thought-provoking. His first-person style--vivid, concerned and earnest--touches many facets of our racial debate. 65,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Paperback - 451 pages - 978-0-87113-723-4
Hardcover - 978-0-517-59087-4
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