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Daily Press
October 26, 1997, Sunday

Controversial Book Reports Progress In Race Relations

Richard Mcgowan Book Reviewer

Anyone who is concerned about the future of American race relations should make America in Black and White'' required reading.

This important new book by Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom details the substantial progress in the status of black Americans over the past 50 years. Examining social, economic and political trends, the authors demonstrate that black Americans have made remarkable strides by every measure of achievement: years of school completed, occupational levels, median incomes, life expectancy at birth, poverty rates and home ownership rates.

Between 1970 and 1995, the proportion of black Americans living in suburban communities nearly doubled, and residential segregation decreased in metropolitan areas with large black populations. A large percentage of blacks and whites say they have meaningful relationships with members of the other race. Over 40 percent of black citizens consider themselves members of the middle class.

The Thernstroms do not neglect the bad news: The proportion of blacks in poverty is still triple that of whites; the unemployment rate for black males is double the white rate and two-thirds of all black infants are now born to unmarried women.

Yet, they argue, the stress placed on the bad news by social commentators distorts an overall picture of enormous progress.

The Thernstroms passionately argue that race-conscious social policies make for more race-consciousness with destructive results.

Policies that work to heighten the sense of racial separatism spell disaster in a nation with a history of racial subordination and a continuing problem, albeit dramatically diminished, of racial intolerance,'' they declare.

This is a monumental, controversial book that nonetheless concludes our nation has no reason to forsake the goal of one nation indivisible.''

McGowan is a former White House correspondent who lives in Wicomico.

America In Black And White: One Nation, Indivisible; Race in Modern America
By Stephan Thernstrom and Abigail Thernstrom
Simon & Schuster
704 pages. $32.50

© 1997 Daily Press

Visit the America in Black and White webpage

 

 


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