Studies in Leadership: Leadership and Democratic Action

By Alvin W. Gouldner | Go to book overview

Contexts: Leadership Among Minority Groups

TO THOSE alert to the problems involved in the defense and extension of democratic values, the position of minority groups in the United States provides a perpetual challenge--and a promise that there is a long, hard row yet to hoe. Just as some Americans once believed that social classes would wither and disappear, so, too, there are those who believe that the presence of ethnic minorities is merely an ungainly expression of our nation's adolescence. In due time, the proponents of the "melting pot" theory urge, and especially with the maturation of second and third generations, America will settle down into a stable and homogeneous society.

The ultimate status of the Negro people was never settled by the "melting pot" theorists; what their final disposition was to be was far from clear. Today, students of intercultural relations have growing doubts about this prognosis; doubts not only in regard to the ultimate status of the Negro people, but for other ethnic minorities as well. And at present, when students of minority problems dare to raise questions of values, some of them begin to wonder whether this was a good idea in the first place. While this problem cannot be resolved here, it is probable that a new outbreak of mass prejudice and bigotry would engrave American society with enduring ethnic cleavages.

Certainly there can be no doubt that a significant and distinctive aspect of the American social structure consists of the polyglot, many- hued minority groups making us, as few other countries, "a nation of nations." These minority groups have already and can in the future make potent contributions to the expansion of democratic vistas. To the extent that American minorities are forced to suffer discrimina-

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