0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2015
The author is well intended-- but is woefully off-base when he asserts that "liberalism" failed due to 'color-blind' public policy programs. The author fails at an attempt to critique political liberalism while also failing to assert what "conservatism" has brought to the table and how racial minorities- particular African Americans-- have fared since the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Sleeper's premise seems to be that if those concerned with social equity weren't so concerned with "seeing colors" that racial minorities would "naturally" progress in economics and politics. Systemic discrimination, cultural discrimination are not taken into account at all. Bill Clinton was the President and Rudy Giuliani was New York City's mayor by the time this book was written, so the "neo-con" culture had not yet taken over the White House (though it had overtaken Congress by the mid-1990s). Sleeper, who apparently identifies as a "moderate" feels he has liberal fallacies nailed, but he's way off the mark.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2005
Liberals are supposed to believe in an inclusive society, where we take advantage of the contributions from everyone in it. And where each person has equal rights.
That surely does not mean lowering standards. A doctor still has to meet standards to practice. A university student still has to pass exams to qualify for a profession.
But it does mean letting people into that university independent of their race, religion, gender, sexual preference, creed, and so on. Maybe age discrimination would be an interesting question, but discrimination in favor of or against people of a specific skin color? That's supposed to be illiberal.
A century ago, the bar was set higher for non-whites than for whites. That was racist and counterproductive. Jim Sleeper asks if we are setting the bar so low for non-whites today that we are denying non-whites the satisfaction of equal accomplishment and opportunity. Given my Asian background, I find this question interesting.
Sleeper asks if, not out of malice but out of folly, many liberals have overemphasized black identity and thus behaved in a racist manner themselves. The author explains that conservatives still have some of the same exclusionary problems they've always had. This is not an apology for conservatism. It is a plea for genuine liberalism.
As Sleeper explains, blacks have much to profit from a truly color-blind society.
The first main topic Sleeper deals with is individual responsibility, as seen in court cases. In the past, blacks simply did not get treated justly in white courts. But there is still a threat of some of the same problems if we keep looking carefully at skin color in court cases. What is legal for whites must be legal for blacks and what is illegal for whites has to be illegal for blacks. The author gives some examples in which many liberals have strayed from this idea.
The next issue is voting rights, where the threat by those who simply will not be color-blind is racial districting. After that, Sleeper discusses the media. He tells us that "good journalists are not crusaders or missionaries. Their job is to uncover the truth, even when it hurts." He contrasts the coverage of a 35,000 person Promise Keepers rally to the 400,000 person Farrakhan "March." Both of these events could have been treated sympathetically, fairly, or critically. But they were treated very differently.
I wanted to see a more thorough discussion of affirmative action. I think there ought to be a clear and beneficial policy here. Namely this: everyone needs to meet the same standards to serve the community, independent of race. But those who are having trouble meeting standards should get some extra support. That is help so that they can meet standards, not a lowering of standards that renders those with credentials suspect. Giving some students extra help in high school makes sense. Kids are required to go to high school by law. Letting people into college who do not actually qualify seems counterproductive to me. But this is not a major criticism of the book. The author has shown that some of us have been lowering standards on the basis of race, and that's the main issue here.
I think Sleeper has made some valuable points. Liberal racism may be more patronizing than malicious, but it is part of a problem in our society. We'll all be more prosperous and happier if we can have a colorblind attitude and reduce racial divisions rather than enhance them.
19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2003
Sleeper's criticism of the corrosiveness of (generally) well-intended white liberal political interventions is astute, but his proposed solution - the (re-)adoption by all Americans of New England puritan values (capitalist vigour + personal thrift + rigid church-based moral codes), while sounding 'tough talking', is simply naive.
He assumes that vigorous free-market consumer capitalism is compatible with such traditional values, whereas the reality world-wide would seem to be the opposite: Traditional and local values get lost in a blur of glossy consumer indulgence and hedonism. What does he propose replacing this money-making, money-spending search for pleasure with? Thrift as a good in itself? But if we don't spend then the system comes crashing down, especially in post-industrial, service-oriented economies.
Moreover high personal moral values of the sort he praises in the last section of the book have always been compatible with beliefs that we now see are terribly immoral - slavery, for instance. The men who wrote that it was self-evidently true that all men are created equal owned slaves. If it seems banal to restate that, it's a reminder that one can't just step into the values of a time gone by, cherry-pick the ones one likes, and then try to browbeat the poorer members of society into adopting them: they come with historical baggage. Hence they may be impulsively resented and deserve to be seriously interrogated.
Mr Sleeper believes that the 'true' American values on which the communal spirit should be rebuilt are New England Puritan ones, but weren't the values of the Southern slave-owners equally 'truly American'? To step outside the reality of history is to step away from reality in all its cluttered complexity, and engagement with reality is what is so often lacking in the discussion of race issues.
In the end Sleeper's proposal that if everyone knuckled down - especially the poor - and conformed to a single vision of the life well-lived then society would be more harmonious, is little more than a conservative platitude. It has the added bonus of letting white people and those in power off the hook as regards racism and racial disadvantage, hence its appeal to comfortably-off right-wingers, who feel themselves terribly put upon by the notion that their skin-colour still gives them privileges in 21st Century America.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2003
Sleeper's book Liberal Racism portrays his ideas about modern american racial tensions in a brutally honest and clear manner. The book deals with liberal's failings in their ideas about race, but Sleeper is careful not to make it an attack of the left, nor a support of the right, but rather an encouragement and constructive criticsm of liberal ideologies about race. In doing this he mantains objectivity by brilliantly refusing to take sides with any political entity, supporting equally the ideas of people as disparrate as race radicals of the 1960's to Newt Gingrich. In addition to Sleeper's careful structuring of his stance, he argues the book with sharp and clear logic, his language and structure flowing beautifully not only within chapters and subjects, but throughout the whole text, as he categorically examines ideas relating to crime, voting, the media, and culture, among others. This book is a valuable text in today's modern racial context because it is not only enlightening, it offers a fresh and concise viewpoint on an often less than clear topic.