A kind of sequel to Jim Sleeper's earlier The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York
, this is a tough-minded, provocative indictment of the failure of liberalism in the post-Civil Rights era. As Sleeper sees it, liberals once held the moral high ground because they "fought nobly to help this country rise above color." Now, however, liberals have become blinded by race and have abandoned the fight to create what Sleeper calls the "transracial belonging and civic faith for which Americans of all colors so obviously yearn." Much of what Sleeper has to say here flies in the face of politically correct received wisdom about race, but as an effort to remind Americans that all of us are fundamentally responsible for our fates, this is a much-needed corrective to race-based thinking that has proven unproductive.
Sleeper argues that liberals who once pushed America to think beyond color have of late gravitated toward ideas and policies that are essentially racist. Sleeper maintains that liberals make many destructive racial assumptions, including the notion that color itself determines an individual's destiny. Similarly, they frequently have lower expectations for people of color, notably in the area of crime, where they like to see African American criminals as victims. Such thinking, he believes, diverts us from the reality of crime and its causes. The media also come under Sleeper's keen eye, including the New York Times,
which, in his view, regularly "gets race wrong" by accepting the above myths. Sleeper's analysis is hard nosed and penetrating, but his aim isn't to tear down. Just the opposite, as he hopes to direct progressive ideology and its practitioners back toward truly liberating traditions. Brian McCombie