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A Day Late and a Dollar Short: High Hopes and Deferred Dreams in Obama's ""Post-Racial"" America Hardcover – December 1, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Jeter and Pierre, both Washington Post journalists, examine some of the pressing political and social causes of the day-health care, organized labor, the "war on terror," and incarceration-through an anecdotal lens. Some of these stories are personal, as when Pierre discusses his family's struggles with poverty, or Jeter probes how a lifetime of enduring white racism broke his father's spirit. Other subjects seem more obviously to be placeholders for a cause, like the convicted murderer who shines light on a racist penal system or the union activist who can't afford health insurance after her retirement. The attempt to straddle the personal and political falls short however. The magnitude of specific struggles seems diluted when they are lumped together and manipulated by the authors to illustrate black disenchantment from the nation's first black president.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Inside Flap
When Henry Louis Gates spoke out about his ridiculous arrest, he stated a truth few Americansnot even President Obamaare eager to discuss: there is no such thing as a postracial America. When it comes to race, the United States has come a long way, but not far enough and not fast enough. Every day we cope with casual racism, myriad indignities, institutional obstacles, "postracial" nonsense, or worse. The powers that be, meanwhile, always seem to arrive with their apologies and redress a day late and a dollar short.
In this book, master storytellers Robert Pierre and Jon Jeter take a closer look at the lives of African-Americans from diverse backgrounds as Obama's victory comes to play a personal role in each of their lives. Every tale delves into the complex issues we will have to deal with going forward: the many challenges young black men face, subtle persistent racism, the stagnation of blacks vis-à-vis whites, widespread black participation in the military despite widespread anti-war sentiments, the decline of unions even as organized labor becomes the primary vehicle for black progress, the challenges of interracial families, the lack of good schools or healthcare for the poor, and the inability of well-off blacks to lift up others.
This honest and engaging exploration of the State of the Black Union is packed with compelling, inspiring, heartbreaking, and hopeful stories from the real lives of black Americans. You'll meet the Louisiana grandmother who escaped the backbreaking drudgery of a sugar plantation, managed to buy her own modest home, and stayed alive long enough to see a black man elected president; the fiery Chicago union shop steward who fought passionately to save the jobs of more than 260 workers; and the activist who questioned candidate Obama in public, only to have his concerns dismissed. You'll also meet a successful small business owner who describes her struggles to keep her children from being labeled as learning disabled or emotionally disturbed in both public and private schools; a South African immigrant who worries that Obama will repeat the disastrous mistakes made by African presidents in his native land; and many more. A Day Late and a Dollar Short is the one book the president should start reading today.
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A quote at one of the chapter titles quotes Adam Clayton Powell as saying "Harvard has ruined more Negroes than bad whiskey," and that seems to me completely apposite in terms of the President's extremely disappointing (and yet not entirely surprising) performance thus far. Jeter & Pierre discuss a wide range of reactions to Obama among a variety of African-Americans, discuss Obama's choice to play to stereotypes to cast himself in a relatively favorable light, discuss his role as a front man and his willingness to continue pro-war and pro-banker policies. Yet they also discuss reasons his election did arouse happiness and hope.
Even more useful than perspective on the President was the varied perspectives on American life of the individuals profiled in the book. I was not for instance aware that the African-American community is overall far more anti-war than any other ethnic group.
I 'd have given it five stars except that its structure seemed a bit disjointed and meandering (perhaps a result of there being two authors). More structure and unity would have added strength. Nonetheless, it's interesting and worthwhile.
"Those potholes have been there since winter. We've been waiting months for them to be filled and I cna't wait any longer. If the town council has it done, they'll pay the workers thousands per day and charge us for it in higher taxes. I'd rather spend $200 for the blacktop and $100 for the labor and get them done now."
The moral of the story is this; whenever the government "takes care" of a problem, they're "a day late and a dollar short," meaning they fix it too late, charge too much, and do a half-ass job. Too many of us have gotten into the habit of waiting for Uncle Sam to help, when we could be taking care of the problem on our own.