A Vision of a New Racial Tapestry Harvard Scholar Gates Talks about Racism and Multiculturalism in US

By David Holmstrom, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, April 1, 1992 | Go to article overview

A Vision of a New Racial Tapestry Harvard Scholar Gates Talks about Racism and Multiculturalism in US


David Holmstrom, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


FOR affable and impish Henry Louis Gates Jr., it was the morning after. One of his former students at Yale University, Jodie Foster, had won an Oscar at the Academy Awards late the previous night.

And now Dr. Gates, head of Harvard University's department of Afro-American studies, was sinking into an armchair in his Cambridge office, still a little sleepy from watching a night of TV. "I predicted a sweep for 'Silence of the Lambs,' " he said happily. Then, as if such prophecy were clearly normal, he said with a playful, Jack Benny-like gesture, "What can I say?"

Along with his light side, mix equal parts of a solid reputation for black scholarship, outspokeness on race problems, welcomed public visibility, a commitment to multiculturalism, and here is the black scholar that Harvard expects to mold its Afro-American program into the heavyweight champion of black studies.

With plenty of fanfare a year ago, Harvard hired Gates away from Duke University in Durham, N.C. Prolific and peripatetic, Gates brought with him enough energy to have already written or edited a number of books on black literature and black writers, including "The Signifying Monkey," which won an American Book Award in 1989. His most recent book is "Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars."

Gates also received a MacArthur "genius" grant while teaching at Yale, has written a number of essays on pop culture for newspapers, lectured widely, and was an expert witness at the trial of 2 Live Crew, a black rap group charged with obscenity in Florida last year. To the delight of his Harvard students, Gates managed to get black filmmaker Spike Lee to campus this semester to lecture on black films.

Seated in his office just off Harvard Square, Gates talked for an hour.

In this election year, what's missing from the candidates' discussion of issues?

What's missing is a serious explanation of a remedy for the class divisions in this country. I see the racial divisions as metaphors for deeper economic differences unlike we have seen in this country before. Look at the black community; simultaneously we have the largest black middle class that we have ever had along with the largest black underclass we've ever had. None of the candidates has given a sufficient explanation as to why this is the case. There's been a lot of jibberish about racism, but no systematic analysis of what caused this problem, and no analysis leading to a systematic solution.

Why don't candidates talk about it?

Because nobody wants to hear it.

Why is that?

Well, I think it was President Reagan or Nixon who said, if there's 10 percent unemployment then there is 90 percent employment. There are more people satisfied than not satisfied in the middle class. I think {the candidates} have written off a large part of the American constituency and are defining everybody as middle class except people who are unemployed or unemployable, the constituency about whom they feel is no hope. {The candidates} are asking the black middle class to think of themselves as as part of a larger American middle class rather than as part of a black community. And that's very different from {the past}. I just don't see social compassion in this.... I saw a statistic last week that said 44.8 percent of black children live under the poverty line. This is totally unacceptable.

Is it a form of racism when the candidates seldom mention the problems of the black communities in the inner cities?

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Vision of a New Racial Tapestry Harvard Scholar Gates Talks about Racism and Multiculturalism in US
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.