Ralph Bunche Critical Context - Essay

James Haskins

Critical Context

Haskins attempts to pay tribute to a relatively unknown American who contributed significantly to the cause of world peace. At the same time, he tries to show the dehumanizing effects of racial prejudice and discrimination from the point of view of a sensitive and talented individual who had to endure them. Written at a time when the United States was adjusting uneasily to the legal equality achieved by African Americans during the 1960’s, Ralph Bunche served as a reminder to all Americans that, until an individual such as Bunche can be accepted as a hero by people of all colors, the promise inherent in the Constitution of the United States will never be realized. By continual references to the status of African Americans at various points in Bunche’s life, Haskins exposes the essential mindlessness of racism and its debilitating effects on not only those discriminated against but the discriminators as well.

Haskins also succeeds in showing that the enduring curse of racism can only be addressed effectively through an international effort that considers the problem in all parts of the world. He focuses attention on the indispensable role the United Nations must play in any such effort. Nevertheless, the Ralph Bunche that Haskins describes would probably not be entirely pleased with the biography. In all likelihood, he would prefer to be remembered by a society in which color no longer matters, simply as a person who made the world a better place by having lived in it.