【Lesson 1 Good News about Racial Progress
The remaining divisions in American society should
not blind us to a half-century of dramatic change
By Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom
In the Perrywood community of Upper Marlboro, Md.1, near Washington, D.C., homes cost between $160,000 and $400,000. The lawns are green and the amenities appealing—including a basketball court.
Low-income teen-agers from Washington started coming there. The teens were black, and they were not welcomed. The homeowners? association hired off-duty police as security, and they would ask the ballplayers whether they “belonged” in the area. The association? s newsletter noted the “eyesore” at the basketball court.
But the story has a surprising twist: many of the homeowners were black t oo. “We started having problems with the young men, and unfortunately they are our people,” one resident told a re porter from the Washington Post. “But what can you do?”
The homeowners didn?t care about the race of the basketball players. They were outsiders—in truders. As another resident remarked, “People who don?t live here might not care about things the way we do. Seeing all the new houses going up, someone might be tempted.”
It?s a t elling story. Lots of Americans think that almost all blacks live in inner cities. Not true. Today many blacks own homes in suburban neighborhoods—not just around Washington, but outside Atlanta, Denver and other cities as well.
That?s not the only common misconception Americans have ab out race. For some of the misinformation, the media are to blame. A reporter in The Wall Street Journal, for instance, writes that the economic gap between whites and blacks has widened. He offers no evidence. The picture drawn of racial relations is even bleaker. In one poll, for instance, 85 percent of blacks, but only 34 percent of whites, agreed with the verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. That racially divided response made headline news. Blacks and whites, media accounts would have us believe, are still separate and hostile. Division is a constant theme, racism another.
To be sure, racism has not disappeared, and race relations could —and probably will —improve. But the serious inequality that remains is less a function of racism than of the racial gap in levels of educational attainment, single parenthood and crime. The bad news has been exaggerated, and the good news neglected. Consider these three trends:
A black middle class has arrived. Andrew Young recalls the day he was mistaken for a valet at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It was an infuriating case of mistaken identity for a man who was then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
But it wasn?t so long ago that most blacks were servants—or their equivalent. On the eve of
World War II, a trivial five percent of black men were engaged in white-collar work of any kind, and six out of ten African-American women were employed as domestics.
In 1940 there were only 1,000 practicing African-American lawyers; by 1995 there were over 32,000, about four percent of all attorneys.
Today almost three-quarters of African-American families have incomes above the government poverty line. Many are in the middle class, according to one useful index—earning double the government poverty level; in 1995 this was $30,910 for a two-parent family with two children and $40,728 for a two-parent family with four children. Only one black family in 100 enjoyed a middle-class income in 1940; by 1995 it was 49 in 100. And more than 40 percent of black households also own their homes. That? s a huge change.
The typical white family still earns a lot more than the black family because it is more likely to collect two paychecks. But if we look only at married couples—much of the middle class—the white-black income gap shrinks to 13 percent. Much of that gap can be explained by the smaller percentage of blacks with college degrees, which boost wages, and the greater concentration of blacks in the South, where wages tend to be lower.
Blacks are moving to the suburbs. Following the urban riots of the mid-1960s, the presiden-tial Kerner Commission14 concluded that the nation? s future was menaced by “accelerating segrega-tion”—black central cities and whites outside the core. That segregation might well blow the country apart, it said.
It? s true that whites have continued to leave inner cities for the suburbs, but so, too, have blacks. The number of black suburban dwellers in the last generation has almost tripled to 10.6 million. In 1970 metropolitan Atlanta, for example, 27 percent of blacks lived in the suburbs with 85 percent of whites. By 1990, 64 percent of blacks and 94 percent of whites resided there.
This is not phony integration, with blacks moving from one all-black neighborhood into another. Most of the movement has brought African-Americans into neighborhoods much less black15 than those they left behind, thus increasing integration. By 1994 six in ten whites reported that they lived in neighborhoods with blacks.
Residential patterns do remain closely connected to race. However, neighborhoods have become more racially mixed, and residential segregation has been decreasing.
Bigotry has declined. Before World Was ft, Gunnar Myrdal16 roamed the South researching An American Dilemma, the now-classic book that documented17 the chasm betwe en the nation?s ideals and its racial practices, hi one small Southern city, he kept asking whites how he could find “Mr. Jim Smith,” an African-American who was principal of a black high school. No one seemed to know who he was. After he finally found Smith, Myrdal was told that he should have just asked for “Jim.” That? s how great was white aversion to dignifying African-Americans with “Mr.” Or “Mrs.”
Bigotry was not just a Southern problem. A national survey in the 1940s asked whether “Ne-groes shoul d have as good a chance as white people to get any kind of job.” A majority of whites said that “white people should have the first chance at any kind of job.”
19. Such a question would not even be asked today. Except for a lunatic fringe18, no whites would sign on to such a notion.19
20. In 1964 less than one in five whites reported having a black friend. By 1989 more than two out of three did. And more than eight often African -Americans had a white friend.
21. What about the last taboo?20 In 1963 ten percent of whites approved of black-white dating; by 1994 it was 65 percent. Interracial marriages? Four percent of whites said it was okay in 1958; by 1994 the figure had climbed more than elevenfold, to 45 percent. These surveys measure opinion, but behavior has also changed. In 1963 less than one percent of marriages by African- Americans were racially mixed. By 1993, 12 percent were.
22. Today black Americans can climb the ladder to the top.21 Ann M. Fudge is already there; she?s in charge of manufacturing, promotion and sales at the $2.7-billion Maxwell House Coffee and Post Cereals divisions of Kraft Foods.22 So are Kenneth Chenault, president and chief operating officer at American Express23 and Richard D. Parsons, president of Time Warner, Inc.24 After the 1988 Demo-cratic Convention25, the Rev. Jesse Jackson26 talked about his chances of making it to the White House. “I may not get there,” he said “But it is possible for our children to get there now.”
23. Even that seems too pessimistic. Consider how things have improved since Colin and Alma Powell27 packed their belongings into a V olkswagen28 and left Fort Devens, Mass., for Fort Bragg, N. C. “I remember passing Woodbridgc, Va.,” General Powell wrote in his autobiogra phy, “and not finding even a gas-station bathroom that we were allowed to use.” That was in 1962. In 1996 reliable polls suggest he could have been elected President.
24. Progress over the last half-century has been dramatic. As Corctta Scott King wrote not long ago, the ideals for which her husband Martin Luther King Jr. died, have become “deeply embedded in the very fabric of America29.”
From Reader?s Digest, March, 1998
V. Analysis of Content
1. According to the author, ___________
A. racism has disappeared in America
B. little progress has been made in race relations
C. media reports have exaggerated the racial gap
D. media accounts have made people believe that the gap between blacks and whites has become narrower
2. What the Kerner Commi ssion meant by “accelerating segregation” was that __________
A. more and more whites and blacks were forced to live and work separately
B. more and more blacks lived in the central cities, and whites outside the core
C. more and more whites lived in the central cities, and blacks outside the core
D. nowadays more and more blacks begin to live in the suburbs
3. The last taboo in the article is about ____________.
A. political status of America?s minority people
B. economic status of America? s minori ty people
C. racial integration
D. interracial marriages
4. Gunnar Myrdal kept asking whites how he could find “Mr. Jim Smith,” but no one seemed to know who he was, because _____________.
A. there was not such a person called Jim Smith
B. Jim Smith was not famous
C. the whites didn …t know Jim Smith
D. the white people considered that a black man did not deserve the title of “Mr.”
5. In the author?s opinion, _
A. few black Americans can climb the ladder to the top
B. Jesse Jackson? s words in th is article seemed too pessimistic
C. Colin Powell could never have been elected President
D. blacks can never become America? s President
VI. Questions on the Article
1. Why were those low-income teen-agers who came to the Perrywood community consid-ered to be “the eyesore”?
2. What is the surprising twist of the story?
3. According to this article, what has caused much of the white-black income gap?
4. Why did the presidential Kerner Commission conclude that the nation? s future was menaced by “accelerating segregation”?
5. Why wouldn?t questions as “Should negroes have as good a chance as white people to get any kind of job?” be asked today?
Topics for Discussion
1. Can you tell briefly the dramatic progress in the status of America? s minority p eople over the last half-century?
2. Do you think the article is unbiased? What do you think of the author s view on the African-Americans?
1. amenity: n. A. The quality of being pleasant or attractive; agreeableness. 怡人：使人愉快或吸引人的性质；使人愉快 B. A feature that increases attractiveness or value, especially of a piece of real estate or a geographic location.生活福利设施；便利设施：能够增加吸引力或价值的事物，特别是不动产或地理位置⊙ We enjoy all the -ties of home life. 我们享受家庭生活的一切乐趣。
2. appealing: adj. Attractive; inviting: 吸引人的，令人心动的；有魅力的，诱人的：⊙ an appealing manner; an appealing idea. 令人心仪的举止；大受欢迎的想法
3. twist: n. An unexpected change in a process or a departure from
a pattern, often producing a distortion or perversion: 变化：在过程中出人意料的变化或方式的改变，经常产生扭曲或颠倒：⊙ a twist of fate; a story with a quirky twist. 命运的扭转；跌宕起伏的故事
4. telling: adj. Having force and producing a striking effect 有效的：有力量并产生突出效果的, 生动的; 显著的; 说明问题的⊙ with telling effect 有显著效验 the most telling passages in that novel 那部小说中最生动的段落 History is the most telling witness. 历史是最有力的见证人。
5. journal: n. A newspaper. 报纸 B. A periodical presenting articles on a particular subject: 期刊：刊登关于某特殊主题的文章的期刊：⊙ a medical jour nal. 医学期刊
6. bleak: adj. Cold and cutting; raw: 寒冷和刺骨的；阴冷的：⊙ bleak winds of the North Atlantic. 北大西洋的冷风 -> 无遮蔽的; 光秃秃的, 荒凉的, 萧瑟的; 寒冷的, 苍白的; 暗淡的⊙ a bleak prospect 前途暗淡 a bleak hillside 荒凉的山坡
7. attorney: =lawyer, A-General[英]检察总长; [美]司法部长
8. paycheck: n. A. A check issued to an employee in payment of salary or wages. 付薪金用的支票：发给雇员的支付工资或薪金的支票 B. Salary or wages: 薪金或工资：
9. metropolitan: adj. Of, relating to, or characteristic of a major city: 大城市的，大都会的：属于或关于大都市的，具有大都市的特点的：⊙ crowded m etropolitan streets; a metropolitan newspaper. 繁忙拥挤的大城市街道；大城市的报纸
10. chasm: n. a. A deep, steep-sided opening in the earth's surface; an abyss or a gorge. 裂缝：土地表面上深的、陡峭的缝隙；深渊或峡谷-> b.
A pronounced difference of opinion, interests, or loyalty. 分歧：意见、利益或忠诚上的明显差异⊙ a chasm in the story 故事中的脱节处bridge over a chasm 弥补隔阂
11. phony: adj. Not genuine or real; counterfeit:假冒的，不真实的；假的：⊙ a phony credit card. 伪造的信用卡a phony excuse. 不实的借口a phony name.假名 n. a. Something not genuine; a fake. 假货，赝品 One who is insincere or pretentious. b. 伪君子：虚伪或自负的人 c. An impostor;
a hypocrite. 骗子，冒名顶替者
12. dignify: vt. To confer dignity or honor on; give distinction to: 授…以荣誉：授与高位或荣誉的；给予荣誉称号：⊙ dignified him with a title. 授于他的荣誉称号
13. bigotry: n. The attitude, state of mind, or behavior characteristic of a bigot; intolerance. 偏见：抱偏见的人的态度、思想状况或行为特点；偏执 bigot: n. 盲目信仰者, 顽固者
14. lunatic: adj. insane 精神错乱的, 疯狂的, 极端愚蠢的 n. 疯子, 狂人, 大傻瓜, 疯人⊙ a lunatic decision. 一个极其愚蠢的错误
15. fringe: n. Something that resembles such a border or edging. 边缘, 边界⊙ on the fringe(s) of a forest 在森林的边缘 the mere fringes of philosophy 哲学的皮毛 This is an enormous field of which I can here touch only the fringe. 这是一个很广阔的领域, 我在这里只能谈个大概。-> Those members of a group or political party holding extreme views: 见解偏激的人：某一类持偏激观点人或政党：⊙ the lunatic fringe. 极端分子
16. taboo: n. A ban or an inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion. 禁忌：一种因社会习俗或感情上的反感而导致的禁忌或忌讳⊙ taboos and commandments 清规戒律
17. reverend: adj. Deserving respect. 值得尊重的 -> [the Reverend ]大师, 法师, 牧师[僧侣]的尊称(略作Rev 或the Rev; 对教长用 the Very Reverend, 对主教 bishop 用Right Reverend, 对大主教archbishop 用Most Reverend)
18. pessimistic: adj. expecting the worst in this worst of all possible 悲观的, 厌世的; 悲观主义的⊙ take a pessimistic view of ... 对...抱悲观见解
19. civil action: 民事诉讼
20. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 美国参谋长联席会议主席
21. United States Secretary of State：美国国务卿