American Renaissance - 3 - February 2008
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Jared Taylor, EditorStephen Webster, Assistant EditorRonald N. Neff, Web Site Editor
gration. Partly, that is because the civilrights struggle completely destroyed seg-regation, removing all legal barriers tointegration. Every law Martin LutherKing ever hoped for has been passed, andgovernments at all levels devote enor-mous efforts to rooting out any remain-ing vestiges of racial discrimination.A more significant reason why fewpeople talk about integration is that thereis not much of it to talk about. Voluntary,widespread racial mixing is rare. In lawand in theory, race not only does not mat-ter, it is forbidden that it matter. In prac-tice, race is a prominent and persistentsocial barrier. There has been no officialdeclaration of defeat, but the failure of integration underlines just how far fromrealization is the dream that inspired theracial activists of the middle of the lastcentury. Some Americans live in broadlydiverse settings, but far more do not.Integration was of enormous symbolicimportance for two reasons. First, seg-regation was the clearest possible ex-pression of racial inequality. ManyAmericans came to believe it was uncon-scionable to shut out anyone because of something so meaningless as race. Butabolishing legal segregation was only thefirst step. True integration wasthe key to unblocking the en-tire racial log-jam, to makingthe races equal in every re-spect.Half a century after the con-fident predictions of the1960s, it is high time to re-view the record. If integrationhas not been made to work—much less unblock the log- jam—what will? If integrationwas expected to comesmoothly, yet fails to materi-alize generation after genera-tion, what does that say aboutthe assumptions of the civil rights move-ment? If race still matters after 50 yearsof campaigning, when will it cease tomatter?
Theory of Integration
The theoretical basis for integrationwas established in
An American Di-lemma
, written in 1944 by the Swedishsociologist Gunnar Myrdal. With the pos-sible exception of
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
,no other book has even approached itsinfluence on American thinking aboutrace.
An American Dilemma
wentthrough 25 printings—an astonishingrecord for a dense, thousand-page work of sociology—before it went into a sec-ond, “twentieth anniversary” edition in1962. It set contours for the debate aboutrace that have lasted virtually unchangeduntil our own day.One of the book’s key passages ex-plains why integration is the essentialfirst step to solving the “American di-lemma:”“White prejudice and discriminationkeep the Negro low in standards of liv-ing, health, education, manners and mor-als. This, in its turn, gives support to whiteprejudice. White prejudice and Negrostandards thus mutually ‘cause’ eachother.”This was the heart of the problem:Whites despised blacks and kept them inan artificially inferior position. Whitesthen pointed to this apparent inferiorityas justification for their own prejudices,which gave rise to more acts of oppres-sion that degraded blacks.Myrdal believed that the great obstacleto progress was white prejudice. If whiteattitudes could be reformed, oppressionwould ease, the status of blacks wouldrise, white attitudes would improve fur-ther, and blacks would find yet more op-portunities for success. Myrdal was con-vinced that if the vicious cycle could beturned into a virtuous cycle it would un-lock the nation’s true potential: “[T]heNegro problem is not only America’sgreatest failure but also America’s in-comparably great opportunity for the fu-ture.” If the United States could turn thisfailure into a triumph it would fulfill itspromise as a light unto all nations.Myrdal’s supporters thought changewould come quickly. Myrdal’s assistant,Arnold Rose, added a chapter called“Postscript Twenty Years Later” to the1962 edition. After a triumphant descrip-tion of the progress made since thebook’s original appearance in 1944, hepredicted that all legal discriminationwould be abolished within ten years (itactually took only three) and that in 30years—by 1992—residual private fric-tion between blacks and whites would be
Gunnar Myrdal.Columbia, Maryland, was to be an integra-tionist paradise, but children would not mix.