The New Mainstream

By Patterson, Orlando | Newsweek, November 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

The New Mainstream


Patterson, Orlando, Newsweek


Byline: Orlando Patterson; Patterson, author of "The Ordeal of Integration," is professor of sociology at Harvard University.

Obama's win would be the culmination of a process of inclusion that began with Andrew Jackson.

Victory for Barack Obama on Nov. 4 would mark our democracy's triumph over half the problem of race in America. It would underscore the vitality of America's most distinctive and powerful master trend--assimilation, an invincible force that selects from, absorbs and integrates difference, not always kindly, but always to the profit of the nation's mainstream. But an Obama win would also highlight the stark paradox that is the other half of our racial problem: while black Americans have been fully incorporated into the nation's public life, they continue to be cut off from the private life of other Americans, a separation that accounts in good measure for blacks' besetting socioeconomic problems.

How did we arrive at this strange racial pass? Blacks have always figured in a complex way into the progress of American democracy. Slavery, under which they suffered for nearly two thirds of their history in America, was a brutal form of exclusion. The slave was the quintessential outsider: he was not, and could not be, a citizen participating in the public sphere, nor could he belong to the community, family or formal culture of the master class.

Ironically, this double exclusion facilitated the growth of democracy in America as well as the assimilation of its white immigrants. Democracy emerged first--not accidentally--in the Colonial slave South precisely because slavery encouraged a deep bond of racial solidarity among all classes of whites: we-the-people, white and free, were contrasted to the outsiders, domestic enemies, black and unfree. The black presence gave value to whiteness, a positional good eagerly embraced by immigrants who poured into the new nation during the 19th century. However little these newcomers had in common when they were in Europe, on these shores they discovered that they shared one precious thing--their whiteness, which is to say, their non-blackness, and the absence of the stain of slavery. That helped to forge a new identity and a vital bond in the great and growing republic.

The Civil War and emancipation was the nation's first great attempt to overcome this tragic racial contradiction. But abolition merely freed individual slaves from their masters. It did not abolish the culture of slavery, with its emphasis on the public and private exclusion of blacks. To the contrary, the Jim Crow system that replaced slavery legally reinforced and institutionalized the double exclusion of ex-slaves and their descendants.

The 20th-century political struggles of blacks that culminated in the civil-rights revolution marked the second great chapter in the liberation and incorporation of black Americans. Its achievements were extraordinary: in less than a generation the entire institutional fabric of Jim Crow was dismantled; blacks achieved legal equality and access to the nation's educational and political system. White racial attitudes underwent a profound change, not only in the rejection of notions of racial inferiority by the great majority, but in the acknowledgment of blacks as an integral part of the nation's body politic. The rise of a black middle class, the integration of the military and the remarkable role of blacks in the nation's cultural life--areas of which they came to dominate--were all part of this process. Nowhere was it more pronounced, however, than in the rapid ascent of blacks at all levels of American political life. Obama's election would be the denouement of this astonishing process.

An Obama victory would mark, further, the completion of the process of mass democratic inclusion that began with the presidency of Andrew Jackson, another second-generation orphan, who came out of nowhere to lay the foundations of male, white suffrage on a historically unprecedented scale. …

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

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 ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

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

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The New Mainstream
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
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.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, 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." (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

    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.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.