Monday, January 12, 2015

‘All Eyes Are Upon Us,’ by Jason Sokol -

‘All Eyes Are Upon Us,’ by Jason Sokol -


Race and Politics From Boston to Brooklyn
By Jason Sokol
Illustrated. 385 pp. Basic Books. $32.
reviewed by David Levering Lewis

If, as many believe, America’s experiment in postracialism is over, then “All Eyes Are Upon Us” is a prescient book that offers a great deal to explain a national self-deception of stunning brevity. According to Jason Sokol, whose anecdotally rich first book, “There Goes My Everything,” tracked white Southerners variously coping in the civil rights era, historians have paid insufficient attention to the Janus-faced ­responses of white Northerners to the struggles of black Americans. To be sure, monographs by James Goodman and Thomas Sugrue have explored the dark side of Northern race relations. They found that although the dominant racial philosophies of whites in the North and South were antithetical, opportunity for a majority of black men and women in the North was not very different from what it was in the South.
Sokol agrees: “Rampant segregation in cities across the country rendered racial inequality a national trait more than a Southern aberration.” He argues for a somewhat novel understanding of the North’s “conflicted soul,” which combined two parallel narratives — knee-jerk opposition to change and tokenistic inclusiveness. On the one hand, the region’s violent opposition and calculated amnesia in relation to the civil rights of ­African-Americans; on the other, its high-minded conceit as custodian of the nation’s conscience and embodiment of John Winthrop’s words: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” read more
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