The American Dilemma, as Gunnar Myrdal so adeptly phrased it in his classic study of race relations, is the contradiction between the ideal of equality ("liberty and justice for all," "equal protection under the law," "all men are created equal") and the reality of racism. For a century the American republic lived "half-slave and half-free." Then for another century we lived with blacks half freed, emancipated from slavery but enchained by Jim Crow laws, institutionalized segregation, and white prejudice.
In the 1940s the legal system of segregation in the South and the informal racism that pervaded all regions seemed to be as entrenched and vital as any long-established American institution. But while the foundations of segregation and racism were sunk deeply in America's history, they were continually being eroded by the fundamental and transcendent American ideals of freedom and equality. Pressured by an invigorated civil rights movement, the repudiation of the racial ideology of Nazism, critical Supreme Court decisions undermining the "separate, but equal" pillar of segregation, and other developments, institutionalized racism began to crumble after World War II ( Burstein, 1985; Schuman, Steeh, and Bobo, 1985).
Perhaps even more amazing than legal changes were the changes that occurred in the sphere of "folkways", which William Graham Sumner had warned were almost impervious to adaptation. But the racial attitudes that underpinned segregation and racial discrimination did begin to change ( Smith and Sheatsley, 1984; Schaefer, 1986; Schuman, Steeh, and Bobo, 1985; Smith, 1982, 1985). The shifts in the area of education illustrate the general process (Tables 8.15- 8.18). In 1942de jure school segregation was the rule in all southern and many other states, and over 60 percent of whites agreed that whites and blacks should attend separate