This pattern of reader expectations aroused and then denied repeats throughout the book, until the predictable public summations and reconsiderations accumulate into a larger contemporary clichd: a sort of left-leaning youngster has become a sort of middle-of-the-road man. Wright has come to terms with Ronald Reagan, whom he sees as a kind of Kennedy in wolf’s clothing, and he has laid his yearning for political heroes to rest. \(The funniest chapter of the book is that on Nixon, in which Wright goes to great lengths to portray him as the most liberal of Presidents if true, on these terms, it only goes to show the That said, the earlier chapters are largely successful in dramatizing Wright’s recollections of his coming of age and of particular people along the way. Although he spends more time on his difficult relationship with his father, there are more telling memories of his mother, who happily never fully fit in to the strait-laced Dallas society world to which she aspired. His college memories of New Orleans are quite striking, although he seems a trifle embarrassed about them, and characteristically drifts into a lengthy and tedious summation of the Jim Garrison conspiracy investigations. I would have much preferred more of his first real sweetheart, an intriguing young lady named Tamzon Feeney. His move to Egypt begins promisingly with delightful scenes of street life and collegiate intrigue, but soon these are replaced with a prose voiceover which might as well be labeled “Egypt in 1970.” The moments of real writing diminish as the book moves forward, until by its close Wright is recounting more televised history than anything else and the book is much the poorer for it. If I seem harsh, it is because the promise of the book is so strong, and because Wright is clearly a real talent with many true tales to tell. They didn’t all make it into this book indeed, those that did, didn’t make it all into this book. But there will be other books, and more tales: if only Mr. Wright leaves the pop history to those coffee-table volumes with which publishers grimly greet the end of every cursed decade and recollects the particular, and therefore revelatory, drama that has been his own life. We may or may not need a new world; we certainly need to see the old one with new eyes. Invisible Cities and the Neoconservative Ethic BY JOE R. FEAGIN INVISIBLE HOUSTON: The Black Experience In Boom and Bust By Robert D. Bullard College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987 160 pages, $11.50 REFLECTING THE neoconservative ethos of the times, journalists and academic writers have recently singled out certain problems confronting black Americans: the increases in illegitimacy, single-parent families, welfare dependency, and serious crime. The blame for these difficulties is placed on the values of black families and on the failure of “massive” federal social spending to cure these ills. Neoconservative politicians and commentators such as Charles Murray, Glenn Loury, George Gilder, Lawrence Mead, and Daniel P. Moynihan have played an important role in creating a new ideological smokescreen to obscure the underlying realities of racism and race discrimination. This new conservative ideology has functioned to refurbish the legitimacy of national and local elites in the eyes of most white Americans, at least for a time, by moving public debate away from such Joe Feagin is a professor of sociology at the University of Texas and author of Free Enterprise City: Houston in Political and Economic Perspective to be published by Rutgers University Press later this year. issues as racism, long-term unemployment, and environmental problems linked to development, and toward issues of crime, reverse discrimination, welfare, and illegitimacy. Neoconservative analysis “blames the victims” by focusing on the subculture and attitudes of the black poor and excoriates “liberal” government programs for creating ghetto dwellers who no longer wish to work. In this new book on the South’s largest black community, that in Houston, sociologist Robert D. Bullard brings racial discrimination back to the forefront of the U.S. and Texas governmental policy and demonstrates the many weaknesses in prevailing neoconservative analysis. Bullard, who taught for a decade at Texas Southern University \(a university created in the late 1940s to forestall the desegregation the argument that institutional discrimination remains at the heart of the problems of black Houstonians. Such discrimination pervades employment, housing patterns, environmental actions of government, local business opportunities, and traditional law enforcement. In the 1970s Houston emerged as the nation’s premier free enterprise city and hundreds of articles in the national media touted this “capital of the Sunbelt” and its population boom. But in all this attention there was no in-depth discussion of the city’s racial and ethnic communities and their problems of well-institutionalized racism. This glossing over of the city’s racial and ethnic problems, Bullard writes, was “especially typical of Houston’s institutional promoters, who consistently treated the city’s ethnic diversity as a point best served by omission.” This is indeed a significant omission, for Houston was, in 1980, nearly half black and Hispanic. Bullard explores in considerable detail the deepening problems of unemployment and poverty. At the peak of Houston’s boom in 1980, more than one fifth of the black population was officially recorded as poor, compared to one in ten in the white population. The median income of black families was $15,442, about $10,000 less than that of white families. That gap widened with the deep recession of the mid1980s. Black unemployment has remained much higher than that of whites both in boom times and in bust. In the mid-1970s the black unemployment rate was double that of whites; and in January 1986 it was 12.5 percent, more than double the white rate of 5.7 percent. In a recent book on black Americans, The Truly Disadvantaged ogist William J. Wilson argues that the black ghettos’ basic problem is chronic unemployment of black males. The scarcity of employed young black males, that is, young men who can find regular, decent-paying jobs, substantially accounts for the growing numbers of female-headed households and the increase in out-of-wedlock births. If young black men and women, in Houston or other U.S. cities, cannot afford to marry, 16 MARCH 25, 1988
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