We Have No Leaders: African Americans in the Post-Civil Rights Era

By Robert C. Smith; Ronald W. Walters | Go to book overview

11
From Incorporation toward Irrelevance:
The Afro-American Freedom Struggle
in the 21st Century

This book provides dismal, detailed evidence of the irrelevancy of black politics in producing in the last twenty-five years benefits for most blacks, especially the imperative to reconstruct and integrate the ghettos into the mainstream of American society. The problem is multifaceted. First, the political culture and system in the United States is, historically, stubbornly resistant to social change and reform, but especially when such change and reform involves race. 1 Indeed, without a systemic crisis of some sort the American political system has never responded to citizen demands for fundamental change in its class or racial hierarchies. 2 Second, American political institutions in the last twenty-five years have become increasingly weak and fragmented, as a consequence of the decline in the party system and the presidency, the ever-increasing influence of ever narrower, special interest groups and the growth in power of political pollsters, consultants and assorted hucksters, and of a trivia and sensation seeking media. It is very difficult therefore for the government to produce coherent public policies in the public interest, and the public, knowing this, does not trust it to do so. Third, the white establishment or power elite in the last twenty-five years has essentially rejected the idea that the federal government has a role to play in dealing with the problems of the ghetto poor, arguing that blacks are to blame for their own conditions. Finally, the leadership of black America instead of pursuing the leadership, organization and mobilization of its core community has instead pursued integration into systemic institutions and processes in the classic top-down hierarchical tradition of middle-class liberal reformers.

In this chapter I summarize the results of this study in terms of these four facets of the problem and note what I take to be the implications for the future of Afro-American society, and racial politics and democracy in the United States.

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