A report of the current state of race relations in New York City, which examines the differing views of militants, liberals and forgotten minorities, and presents suggestions for racial common sense that attempt to demolish long-standing stereotypes.
In this study of race relations in N.Y.C., Sleeper, an editorial writer for New York Newsday, harshly criticizes both black leaders and their liberal supporters for pointing a finger at America's racist society rather than setting concrete goals to overcome inequality. Sleeper chronicles the struggle for racial justice through a series of battles, from the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaign in Harlem in the 1930's to the recent protests surrounding the Yusuf Hawkins murder in Bensonhurst. He concludes that success has been achieved by popular movements that forged interracial alliances by linking black and white rights in vocal protests, or by making backroom deals between power-brokers like David Dinkins' mentor J. Raymond Jones and white machine politicians. Sleeper is critical of black nationalists like Sonny Carson, who began in the 1960's to disclaim past Jewish participation in the civil-rights movement and to demand rights while encouraging isolation from mainstream America. The author argues that this mistake is being continued by C. Vernon Mason, Alton Maddox, and Rev. Al Sharpton, who encourage poor blacks to demand their rights without taking responsibility for their lives and the society that surrounds them. Sleeper's call for a stronger black leadership that can forge interracial alliances for economic justice is convincing, and a notable corollary to the work of Shelby Steele (The Content of Our Character, p. 995). But his conclusion that the conquering of racism itself must be left to the good conscience of white liberals leaves little role for the black activists whose strategies he has set out to critique. (Kirkus Reviews)