Race and America’s Soul

Reckoning with Race: America’s Failure, by Gene Dattel (Encounter, 408 pp., $27.99)

What gives Gene Dattel’s Reckoning with Race: America’s Failure its special power is that, even after its bracingly original and thoroughly researched account of the racism of the abolitionist North from the late eighteenth century until long after the Civil War, the book nevertheless does not shrink from laying the ills of today’s black American underclass not at the door of a painful history, with ample blame for northern as well as southern whites, but squarely at the feet of black Americans themselves. Yes, shameful, deeply shameful, were slavery, Jim Crow, and northern racism, and who can doubt that they left grievous scars? Still, America fought a war to end the evil institution, had a civil rights movement to try to erase its malign remnants, and spent decades on affirmative action and other nostrums to expunge even the faintest remaining traces. Whatever white Americans could do to atone for and repair the damage they caused, they have done, as much as imperfect humans in an imperfect world can do. Now, Dattel argues, it’s up to black Americans to save themselves.

  • simus1

    In very simplistic terms, it all goes back to two conflicting movements that sought to move black communities forward within the American mainstream after the Civil War. Booker T. Washington on the right and W.E.B. Dubois on the left were the nominal heads of each side.

  • bob e

    This sounds rational to me .. but I’m probably considered a racist because
    I think Honest Abe gave two shits about black people. (Liberia) He was a
    breath away from losing the entire nation & any monkey wrench (no racism intended)
    thrown against the South was imperative.

  • txfella

    The United States’ politics and policy from it’s onset were dominated by the Democrat party. The Republican party was created with the sole purpose of abolishing slavery. If the author has aspersions to cast upon this great country he need only aim for the party of the ass. In my opinion the once shackled race fairs no better by blind allegiance to the same.