The needs, interests, and dispositions of the black American community are unmistakably the focus of national attention. The mass media throughout the country increasingly employ black spokesmen and black themes. "Soul" music, "soul" food, and other elements of black culture once confined to the black ghettos now appear to be increasingly infused into the "mass culture" of American society. Natural hairdos are in vogue and are often worn by blacks and whites alike. Colleges and universities throughout the country are faced with demands for "black studies"—courses which will deal more factually and compassionately with the role of nonwhites in American society. Viewed in terms of recent history, these are new developments on the American scene. They suggest some degree of relaxation of the rigid racism that has characterized most of the history of the United States.
Although advancements toward ending racism are readily detectable, symptoms of a formidable resistance to black equality are also evident. A congressional committee is currently "investigating" the Black Panthers, a black youth group with a combination of reformist and revolutionary aims in the interest of black American equality.The National Youth Alliance, a youth group in support of segregationist George Wallace, has, in alliance with the Nazi Party, spawned a national network of local groups with the reported intention of resisting the development of black studies programs on the various college campuses. In addition, this group appears to nurture virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic sentiment and to include in its program resistance to the interests of these groups as well. What has been termed "white backlash" is currently in evidence in city, state, and national politics. In addition to this, abrasive encounters between blacks and whites continue at a high frequency. All of which means that gains achieved by black Americans are thus far fragile tendencies rather than firmly set institutional patterns. These tendencies may prosper and substantially curtail the rampant racism of the country, but not necessarily. The fate of such social tendencies has several alternative possibilities.
One way of characterizing this new emphasis on black culture and prosperity, using the formal language of analytic sociology, is as one major component of an incipient social movement. The issue of black American equality shares this position with other powerful pressures for social change, for example, the "youth movement," the anti-Viet Nam movement, the movement for "women's liberation." The current effort toward black American equality must be seen as part of a more general movement toward patterns of social relations clearly inconsistent with, and abrasive to, the traditional white Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, racist status quo. But the . . .