Living with Racism

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Joe R. Feagin, a white sociologist, and Melvin P. Sikes, a black educator and psychological consultant, are aware that, in the eyes of many Americans, discrimination is no longer a serious and widespread problem in American society; it is to a considerable degree precisely that awareness that has led them to write LIVING WITH RACISM. Their position is that to be black, even for those who have made it into the middle class, is to live with racism every day. On the basis of interviews with more than two hundred middle-class black Americans, the authors examine the forms taken by racism in public places and accommodations, in educational institutions, in the middle-class workplace, in the business world, in housing, and in everyday encounters. Inevitably, given their method, the evidence they offer is anecdotal, but its cumulative power is undeniable. Readers are made to feel the humiliations and hostility encountered by black people in what remains—to a shocking degree—a racist society.

Given the power with which it tells its grim story, the book might have been merely depressing. That it is not is in part a tribute to the balanced judgment and good sense of the authors. While they are concerned to demonstrate that white racism is still very much present, they acknowledge evidence of progress as well. Evidence of improvements brought about by government action is noted, and stories of humane, supportive actions by white people are encouraging, even if...

(The entire section is 412 words.)