Another Review of Two Nations

Review by Petrita Salazar (1995 )

Blacks and whites live in different worlds, and the gap between their interests, experiences, likes and dislikes is growing and seems to be permanent – and as Andrew Hacker puts it in the title of his book: TWO NATIONS: Black and White, Separate, Hostile and Unequal. Hacker makes a strong case for the power of the racial division encompassing our entire nation.

Hacker seems to tackle almost every sensitive race-related issue with a proper balance. He discusses everything from affirmative action to the problems of equal education. He also takes boring statistics, and turns them into easy-to-understand facts. He tries to be fair on all issues that are presented, but doesn’t completely accomplish his goal. Even though most of his arguments are adequate and precise, he seems to be “off the mark” in a few areas. He has a tendency to portray all other races and ethnic groups (besides the black and white race) as mere spectators with virtually no importance in the racial conflict. He pays no attention to the roles that Latinos, Mexicans, Asians, and other minority groups play in the racial divide.

Granted, the gap may be larger between blacks and whites, but Hacker protrays Hispanics and Asians as “honorary whites”. His portrayal of blacks and whites as “two separate nations” with a separation so pervasive and penetrating that as a social and human division, it surpasses all others is misleading and too simple. There is no indication [that]Hacker considers class differences as being important, let alone other minority groups.

Hacker also tends to forget that other minorities have suffered discrimination as well. Although his claim that Hispanic and Asian discrimination might not be as severe as black discrimination may very well be true, their suffering should not be dismissed as easily as Hacker does so. He asserts tht terms like “kike” and “spic” and “chink” do not have the same emotional impact to tear at one’s insides as the term “[N-word]”. But, how could he possibly know this to be true? For instance, he could not know what it feels to be called a “wetback” which implies that you are a Mexican who illegally entered the United States [by] crossing the Rio Grande.

The truth may be that you entered the country legally, but may have known some who attempted to enter the country the illegal way, who were never heard from again. In such an instance, the term “wetback” might just bring up such painful memories that it could possibly tear at one’s insides like nothing els possibly could. The point is this: Hacker’s portrayal of Asians, Mexicans and Latinos as mere buffer groups or insignificant bystanders seems to be forgetting the history of racism against all of these groups, as well as other minorities. One should not dismiss these other groups as unimportant so easily.

The biggest problem with this book comes in an early chapter titled “being black in America”. Hacker attempts to put himself inside the experiences of the the “every day” black person. He suggests tht most blacks view artists such as Jessye Norman, Toni Morrison, and Bill Cosby, as artists who tailor their talents to both black and white audiences, but mostly white. He claims that blacks feel that these artists have given up, or at least downplayed their blackness for white people. In other words, by bcoming famous, a black person has to give up their “blackness”. By these standards, no black person should strive for success in the entertainment feild because it would only mean giving up who they really are, which simply put; is not true. A black entertainer can be successful without giving up their heritage and sense of blackness.

Hacker also suggest that most blacks support double standards that they condemn whites for supporting. For instance, Hacker claims that most blacks: 1) Find it acceptable to preserve black colleges, yet object if schools designate themselves as “white”. 2) Find it acceptable for blacks to support a candidate just because he is a member of their race, yet when whites choose a white candidate over a black candidate, the only explanation for it is racism.

Not all blacks live by these double standards. Hacker completely over- simplifies the diversity of African American life and thought. Simply put: How can Hacker know what the average black man is thinking on every issue he presents? And who is the average black man anyway? Hacker does not explain who he is talking about. He comes across as giving the impression that the average black man is a member of the underclass, thus promoting the idea that most African Americans think from an underclass, undereducated, pessimistic point of view.

Hacker goes on to try to portray the white response to the racial divide. He discusses the white point of view from a liberal stance and a from a conservative stance. He couldn’t have portrayed the contemporary, conservataive attitude in Congress today. For instance, he claims: 1) Most white conservative disclaim responsibility for issues and tensions associated with race 2) Black Americans are the ones who should change their attitudes and conduct. 3) Black people have been given plenty of opportunity, so they have no one to blame but themselves. 4) Special assistance erodes the character of those benefiting from public assistance, making life too easy. (Please!!!!) 5) Spend an enormous amount of time attacking policies intended to aid blacks.

The only thing he forgot to mention is how white conservatives endorse policies that tend to take away from our nation’s children, by claiming that these programs are not working. On the other hand, Hacker also somewhat bashes the typical liberal. He dismisses their concern for racial justice as merely guilt-driven. It is hard to believe that the average liberal man or woman only acts kind to the entire black race out of guilt. Hacker also claims “white liberals want to be liked by black people, as if having their goodwill as a seal of approval….Liberals hope that blacks will acknowledge tht some whites are not the enemy, but rather want to be counted as friends and allies. For blacks to grant this, if only bestowing a smile, serves to certify one’s moral stature” (p55).

It is as if Hacker feels that white or black liberals do things for blacks for the sole purpose of “searching for approval from them. If they want so much approval, then why is there such a division between white and black.

This is not to say that the book is not interesting, nor is it to say that Hacker is wrong on all points. The book contains many interesting insights. Hacker discusses a number of issues in employment, education, and crime. He takes a tough stance on the issues he presents. Hacker makes one realize that black crime cannot be totally blamed on the black race alone. The white race has contributed to the problem as well. But I’m not really sure at this point that it really matters who is to blame, and as Hacker puts it “What matters is that so many black youths have taken to carrying guns and firing them at one another, making homicide the most frequent cause of death among young men of their race” (p218).

The question that is pervasive, is why are so many young men engaging in what amounts to a self-inflicted gonocide? They have become so widespread, that they must be seen as expressing a despair that suffices much of their race. No other American race has wounded itself fo fatally. In allocating responsibility, Hacker claims the answer should be clear. “It is white America that has made being black so disconsolate. They impose a stigma on every black child at birth”. But what “white america” needs to do is realize their wrongdoings, and change their attitude.

In the end, Hacker claims that racial chasm continues to exist, and there are few signs that the coming century will see it closed. He asks the question: “Is it right to impose on members of an entire race a lesser start in life, and then to expect from them a degree of resolution that has never been demanded from your own race?” And the answer should clearly be “NO”. [NBP: The question is a white supremacy statement. Thus it answers itself.]



3 comments on “Another Review of Two Nations

  1. honeytreebee says:

    When reading such books I think that it is primarly written for whites who are still in denial about where they are, how they got there, and what the cost is. As with all systems that are linear, wasteful and built on an unjust foundation. It will not last and when they bill comes due it will be a huge one to say the least.

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