- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (October 5, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385526547
- ISBN-13: 978-0385526548
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 74 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Disintegration: The Splintering of Black America Hardcover – October 5, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In this clear-eyed and compassionate study, Robinson (Coal to Cream), Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist for the Washington Post, marshals persuasive evidence that the African-American population has splintered into four distinct and increasingly disconnected entities: a small elite with enormous influence, a mainstream middle-class majority, a newly emergent group of recent immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, and an abandoned minority "with less hope of escaping poverty than at any time since Reconstruction's end." Drawing on census records, polling data, sociological studies, and his own experiences growing up in a segregated South Carolina college town during the 1950s, Robinson explores 140 years of black history in America, focusing on how the civil rights movement, desegregation, and affirmative action contributed to the fragmentation. Of particular interest is the discussion of how immigrants from Africa, the "best-educated group coming to live in the United States," are changing what being black means. Robinson notes that despite the enormous strides African-Americans have made in the past 40 years, the problems of poor blacks remain more intractable than ever, though his solution--"a domestic Marshall Plan aimed at black America"--seems implausible in this era of cash-strapped state and local governments.
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Based on his years of reporting and observation of changes in black America, journalist Robinson finds that the black community has evolved to the point where it has disintegrated into distinct sectors: the mainstreamers, or black middle-class majority, who have made tremendous but often understated progress; the abandoned minority with little hope of escaping poverty; transcendental elites of such wealth and power that whites can’t deny; and an emergent group of biracial blacks and recent black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean who are challenging an essentially native black American experience. In the age of Obama, Robinson notes the advancement of the black elites, with wealth and power, into “full ownership stake” in the U.S., distancing them economically from the middle and lower classes. The emergent group identifies with a different notion of the black experience, making them ideologically and politically unreliable. All are in strong contrast to the abandoned, who are at the center of the black disintegration. Readers don’t have to agree with Robinson’s observations to appreciate the undeniable differences within black America and to maybe want further analysis. --Vernon Ford
Top customer reviews
The similarities of how disparate tribes meet, mingle, and join toward common goals: Life, Liberty, Innovation, and all elements of the pursuit of Happiness (Harmony). This effort challenges numeric inclusion in America. It asks clear questions and plots a map of this adopted theme in America's blueprint for life, as it applies to Americans of African Decent. Thank you for this addition to the study. melanie ferguson
The MAINSTREAM middle-class majority has a "full ownership stake" in American society. Many live in suburban neighborhoods, attend college, and hold professional and managerial jobs. Parents watch their children mixing unselfconsciously with whites and are proud of how much has changed. But this also "...sets up a conflict between two strongly held Mainstream values--on one side an absolute belief in Dr. King's dream that all be judged solely by the content of their character, on the other a fierce determination that African American history and culture be not only revered but also perpetuated."
The ABANDONED is a large, ghetto-bound minority with "...less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction's crushing end." They face numerous problems including unemployment, crime, failing schools, and family breakdown. Before civil rights reforms freed the Mainstream to move elsewhere, the American-African community was geographically and socially integrated. Doctors and lawyers lived next to janitors and the unemployed. Poorer members of this community benefitted from assistance, inspiration, and role models. Now the Abandoned are left to themselves, unseen and unwanted. Racial segregation has been replaced by economic segregation.
The TRANSCENDENT are an elite minority with money, power, and influence. This group includes Oprah, Obama, and other celebrities in the highest circles. Many Trancenents pursue social, political, and business projects designed to benefit other African-Americans. Many such efforts benefit the Mainstream far more than the Abandoned, falling short of their desired impact. Many of the older members of this group struggled against stronger barriers to success than remain today. Some find it difficult to step away from their "outsider" roles of the past.
EMERGENTS fall into one of two groups. Recently-arrived immigrants and people of mixed-race heritage. Immigrants tend to be highly educated and follow a path of self-improvement similar to white and Asian immigrants. Family loyalty, a strong work ethic, and less personal experience with America's race conflicts all enhance their chances for success. Emergents of mixed race experience resentment from the other groups and uncertainty about how they fit in to any of the groups they can claim as their own.
Robinson describes patterns of conflict between these groups. "The Mainstream tend to doubt the authenticity of the Emergent, but they're usually too polite, or too politically correct, to say so out loud. The Abandoned accuse the Emergent--the immigrant segment, at least--of moving into Abandoned neighborhoods and using the locals as mere stepping-stones. The immigrant Emergent, with their intact families and long-range mind-set, ridicule the Abandoned for being their own worst enemies. The Mainstream bemoan the plight of the Abandoned--but express their deep concern from a distance. The Transcendent, to steal the old line about Boston society, speak only to God; they are idolized by the Mainstream and the Emergent for the obstacles they have overcome, and by the Abandoned for the shiny things they own. Mainstream, Emergent, and Transcendent all lock their car doors when they drive through an Abandoned neighborhood. They think the Abandoned don't hear the disrespectful thunk of the locks; they're wrong."
The author closes with several strong recommendations. Uplifting the Abandoned should become a national priority. He applauds President Obama's agenda to target all of the poor, knowing that this will help African Americans the most because there are so many among the poor. But he calls for additional efforts that target the Abandoned. He cautions the Trancendents and the Mainstream that they must give up programs for all African Americans that dilute resources desperately needed by the Abandoned. Robinson also cautions against measuring progress based on statistics that summarize the jobs and resources of all four groups without distinction. Such measures underrepresent the achievements of the Mainstream and mask the needs of the Abandoned.
This is an excellent and informative book which I highly recommend. It offers needed perspective on the status of African Americans and avoids the oversimplification of placing them in a single demographic category.