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Houses Divided
AUGUST 17, 1998


THE civil-rights legislation of the 1960s prohibited segregation and all other racial discrimination by public officials and by private parties. Instead of the full integration of blacks into American society, however, the paradoxical result has been greater racial separation, alienation, and conflict. Through case studies of race relations in New York City, Dertoit, and Atlanta, Tamar Jacoby seeks to show us how this came to be.

In New York City, Mayor John Lindsay and Ford Foundation President McGeorge Bundy embodied the liberal belief that the problems of the ghetto were the result of white racism and that the remedy was "black empowerment," turning the provision of government services over to "community control." Lindsay and Bundy, looking for black leaders to empower, settled upon militant activists whose interest was the driving out of whites so as to secure their own dominance in an all-black constituency. For the militants, community control of schools meant schools with black faculties and administrators and a "black" curriculum. When someone objected that Bundy was financing preachers of hate, he replied, "You can't expect effort-free social revolution."

Lindsay was also the moving force behind the Kerner Report, a/k/a the report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders appointed by President Johnson to investigate the urban riots of the late 1960s. The report certified Lindsay's belief that white racism was ultimately responsible. Miss Jacoby shows that the effect of this mea culpa was only to make "black anger and black threats . . . the engine that would drive relations between blacks and whites."

Detroit and Atlanta both became majority-black cities in 1970, largely as the result of another liberal policy: court-ordered busing. In 1973, each of these cities elected its first black mayor, Coleman Young in Detroit and Maynard Jackson in Atlanta, and they proceeded to adopt two disastrous policies. The first was "reform" of the police force, a priority viewed as more important than controlling crime. In Young's view, "law and order was code for 'Keep the niggers in their place.'" The result in Detroit was a "mandate for anarchy" as looting "became an everyday sport." In Atlanta, "the crime rate was out of sight—by the end of the decade the worst in the country."

The second policy was a refusal by the mayors to cooperate with the wealthy white suburbs, since cooperation might have diluted their political power.

Though clearly detrimental to the welfare of the cities, these policies were popular with the mayors' political constituencies because they were seen as socking it to white people. The Young administration couldn't clean or light the streets, deliver jobs, arrest criminals, or explain its budget, a Detroit newspaper columnist wrote, but "the people kept voting for Young—because he said what they wanted to hear about whites and white racism.

While Detroit became a virtually all-black city and a symbol of hopelessness, in Atlanta the black population stabilized at just under the supposed “tipping point" of 70 per cent, and, despite the crime rate, Atlanta continued to be seen as a model of good race relations. Miss Jacoby found, however, that there is little actual integration in Atlanta, and race relations there amount to “peaceful co-existence between two basically mistrustful communities." Ominously, the school system recently adopted an "African Infusion Curriculum,” making "explicit hatred of white people" public education's central subject.

All this would seem to leave little hope for the future of American race relations. However, Miss Jacoby offers a few recommendations. She is undoubtedly right in saying that there is "a need for better leaders" than the current black "race-mongering demagogues" and white "pandering civic elites," but such leadership is rare. She is also right that “integration will not work without acculturation,” that is, a change in blacks' "habits, their attitude toward school, work, and the law." She recognizes, however, that "many blacks dislike the ring of this." More to the point, she is entirely end crucially correct that any form of racial discrimination or preference by govrnment is "a recipe for alienation and resentment." Her book thoroughly documents these conclusions.

Our "race relations" problems result, not from white racism—most white Americans applaud black success—but from the intractable tact that blacks as a group are not academically competitive and therefore do not succeed proportionately when academic attainment is a criterion. Racial-preference programs simply attempt to wish away this unwelcome fact. In the words of an Atlanta journalist Miss Jacoby quotes, “Affirmative action and the new color consciousness and the anger that come with it are breedling a generation of racism more virulent than anything that came before it.” That is the essential message of this important book.

Mr. Graglia is the A. Dalton Cross Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law, at Austin.

©1998 National Review

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