This examination of the era after the civil rights movement can best be described by the old saying "one step forward, two steps back." Klinkner and Smith attack the widely held view that greater racial equality in the United States is preordained by the characteristics and principles of the founding fathers or the tides of history. The authors look at the circumstances that fostered black civil rights, including wars and political instability; when those factors are reduced, they argue, antiblack backlash sets in, from the Reconstruction era up to post-Reagan Republicanism. The Unsteady March
is an alarmist book, but not without hope. The authors offer solutions that include increased commitment to enforcing civil rights legislation, economic parity, and reform of the criminal justice system--as well as bringing back the draft and introducing a universal national service program. --Eugene Holley Jr.
From Library Journal
Political scientists Klinkner (Hamilton Coll.) and Smith (Yale) argue that American racial progress has occurred only in ten- to 15-year bursts and then only in three specific sets of circumstances: when war required black bodies, when fighting an enemy required egalitarian rhetoric, or when domestic political protest pressured for reforms. Progress, they note, has always been followed by years of stagnation and decline, as the white elite reconsolidates its (entrenched) power, blocking reform and embracing inequalities. In other words, whether we shall overcome depends on the national will to realize classic American ideals. The authors' rigorous, exhortatory exposition promises to unsettle some readers, but, in the end, it stands with important works such as Jennifer L. Hochschild's Facing Up to the American Dream: Race, Class, and the Soul of the Nation (Princeton Univ., 1995). It calls on Americans to confront the persistent black-white divide and the disparity between democratic promise and practice. Recommended for the U.S. politics, history, or race relations sections of public and academic collections.AThomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
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