’ Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?’ Narrowing the Enduring Divisions of Race


Hochschild JL. ’ Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?’ Narrowing the Enduring Divisions of Race. In: The Fractious Nation? Unity and Division in Contemporary American Life. edited by Jonathan Rieder with Stephen Steinlight. Berkeley CA: University of California Press ; 2003. pp. 155-169.

Full Text

“Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?”

Racism and Public Policy


Jennifer Hochschild

Princeton University 


June 26, 1998



For publication in Jonathan Rieder and Stephen Steinlight, eds., The Fractious Nation? Unity and Division in Contemporary American Life.  University of California Press, 2003


NOTE: not quite final version.




In a famous 1945 New Yorker essay, Edmund Wilson excoriated the genre of mystery novels by asking, “Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?” – referring, of course, to Agatha Christie’s Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?  Wilson found such novels “a waste of time,” and concluded that “we shall do well to discourage the squandering of... paper that might be put to better use.”  Discussions of the causes of racial animosity in America are not quite such a waste of time.  But Wilson’s sentiments are a salutary reminder that one must beware of “squandering ... paper that might be put to better use,” even on this important subject.  Following his iconoclastic lead, I propose that we stop squandering energy on the question of who is to blame for America’s racial dilemma. We should turn instead to a question that we have a chance of answering and whose answers could make a real difference—that is, who can fix America’s racial problems?

The question of  “who is to blame?” for racial hierarchy and division raises conflict without leading to illumination or productive results.  The question of  “how do we solve the problem?” of racial hierarchy and division might generate a conversation with less conflict and more results.  More particularly, Americans face a mountain of evidence, deep cogitation, passionate conviction, and profound insights on most sides of the debate over the causes of the United States’ racial mess.  I conclude from this, not that there is no right answer to the causal question, but that I am not likely to convince others that my answer is more right than theirs is -- and neither will they convince many others, probably including me.  Therefore Americans should give up the search for explanations of our racial divide in favor of a search for solutions to it.  We may not reach consensus any more readily, but at least our attention will be directed toward productive outcomes rather than squandered on passing the blame.

I begin to develop this argument by reminding readers of the deep racial divide in perceptions of American politics, in beliefs about the problems faced by African Americans, and in explanations for those problems.  In 1995, more whites than blacks (63 to 56 percent) agreed that racial integration has been good for society.  More whites also agreed that emphasizing “integration and opportunity” is the best means for “improving the situation for blacks in America,” whereas more blacks opted for the strategy of “building strong institutions within the black community.”  Malcolm X would have been delighted, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. would have been perplexed, and Governors George Wallace and Orville Faubus would have been dumbfounded by these results.[1]

            As those results imply, a considerable proportion of African Americans perceive whites as deeply hostile to blacks, regardless of what they do or how they live. In 1990, over three-quarters of black New Yorkers (compared with one-third of whites) agreed that it was “true” or “might be true” that “the Government deliberately... investigates black elected officials in order to discredit them....” Six in ten blacks (but fewer than two in ten whites) found it plausible that  “the Government deliberately makes sure that drugs are easily available in poor black neighborhoods in order to harm black people.” One-third of blacks (compared with only 5 percent of whites) even thought it might be true that “the virus that causes AIDS was deliberately created in a laboratory in order to infect black people.”[2]  Six years later in a national sample, over two-thirds of blacks --compared with one-quarter of whites -- found the drug hypothesis plausible.[3]

            When blacks do see improvement in America’s race relations, whites see worsening. From 1988 to 1993 -- the era of David Dinkins’ mayoralty -- an increasing proportion of African American New Yorkers, but a decreasing proportion of white New Yorkers, thought race relations in their city were good.  In 1994, after Mr. Dinkins lost the mayoralty to Rudolph Guiliani, white New Yorkers who perceived any change in race relations thought they were improving while black New Yorkers who perceived change thought race relations were worsening.[4]

            African Americans and whites perceive different social and economic circumstances to be associated with race.  Over half of whites (compared with 29% of blacks) mistakenly agree that “the average African American” is as well off as or better off than “the average white person” in terms of jobs and education.  Over four in ten whites (and about two in ten blacks) hold the same view with regard to housing and income.[5]  The races also differ in their explanations of the causes of disproportionate black poverty.  Seldom do more than one-third of whites see serious racial discrimination; the number of whites who perceive racial discrimination is declining; and up to one-third of whites believe that compared with whites, blacks have more opportunities, are less vulnerable to economic upheaval, receive better health care, are treated better in the courts and the media, and are more likely to obtain good jobs and be admitted to good colleges.  Thus over half of whites explain black poverty as a consequence of “lack of motivation” or “problems brought on by blacks  themselves.”

            Conversely, seldom do fewer than three-fourths of blacks see serious racial discrimination; and the number of blacks who perceive increased racial discrimination is increasing.  For example, fully 84 percent of African Americans (but only 30 percent of white Americans) agreed in 1995 that “discrimination is the major reason for the economic and social ills blacks face” [6] More generally, no more than one-third of blacks explain black poverty as due to “a lack of motivation” or “problems brought on by blacks themselves.”[7]

            Racial discrepancies in perceptions about O.J. Simpson’s guilt provide the sharpest evidence of disparities in perceptions of the fact of, and explanations for the causes of, racially-disparate outcomes.  Fully 85 percent of blacks (but only 34 percent of whites) “agree[d] with the decision of the... jury” in the criminal trial. Only one in ten whites agreed that “the white establishment is always trying to bring down successful black people,” although up to six in ten blacks agreed. Most importantly, two-thirds of whites concluded simply -- and poisonously -- that “blacks often use race as an excuse to justify wrongdoing”[8]

The racial differences in sentiment, perception, and explanation are not in dispute. But  interpretations of these differences, and explanations for the social, economic, and political disparities that underlie them, are deeply disputed.  There are almost as many candidates for interpretation as there are people who have sought one. 

Some claim simply that racial disparities persist because whites are irremediably racist.  As Derrick Bell puts it, whites will never give up any position of power unless they are tricked into it, faced with an even worse threat (such as black rebellion), or able to perceive an ultimate advantage for whites from an apparent increase in racial equality.[9]  Among the many historical incidents that demonstrate this claim, perhaps the quintessential case is the Compromise of 1876.  In that political bargain, the Democratic and Republican parties mutually abandoned African Americans in the south to vicious white “Redeemers” in order to stabilize political and economic competition among white elites.  Current practices are no different, argues Bell; Latinos, white women, and the handicapped gained the most from the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, and  affirmative action policies mostly benefit white women (and perhaps personnel managers and lawyers).

Orlando Patterson writes similarly about the “homeostatic principle of the entire system of racial domination.”  When slaves were freed, sharecropping was introduced; when debt peonage collapsed under the shock of the boll weevil scourge, Jim Crow laws were introduced; when schools were desegregated, the use of tracking (that benefited whites) and special education classes (that isolated black boys) increased; when the black middle class grew after the 1960s, our nation witnessed an upsurge of racial attacks on individuals, a growth of membership in the Ku Klux Klan, and new and imaginative uses of pejorative racial imagery in Republican Party politics.  In short, when one form of racial domination collapses, another rises to take its place.[10]

Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom offer a substantially different interpretation of the extent and nature of racial disparities in perceptions and life chances. In their view, overt prejudice and covert racism have declined to a point that is historically astonishing: “real progress has been made – more progress than those who put their lives on the line in the 1960s probably imagined… The signs of progress are all around us, although we now take that progress for granted.”African Americans used to suffer almost intolerable racist abuse but those days are behind us now, and racism is only perpetuated by continued insistence on racial disparities.  “By no demographic or other measures are African Americans truly a people apart… And yet if both they and whites believe they are, it may well become true.”[11]  Thus people like Bell are inadvertently creating the very racial hierarchy that they seek to destroy.

William J. Wilson proffers yet another interpretation of racial disparities.  Since the 1960s, he argues, economic and social institutions have sorted Americans more by class than by race (or by class in conjunction with racial discrimination, in his newest book).[12]   Some African Americans were in a position to take advantage of the growing economy and of the opening up of educational, political, and residential opportunities in the 1960s.  They attained a college education, moved to the suburbs, obtained and kept professional jobs, and have passed their middle class status on to their children.  Other African Americans were not in a position to take advantage of the new opportunities. They were left behind in cities where jobs disappeared because of global economic transformations; through no fault of their own they ended up with atrocious schools, depopulated neighborhoods, and no chance to obtain steady and remunerative work. Over several decades, these economically depressed communities have developed a dynamic characterized by disproportionate welfare dependency, class as well as racial isolation, crime, reliance on a drug economy, and other evils.

If none of these explanations for racial disparities in perceptions and life chances appeal to you, there are others.   Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray argue that blacks have, on average, a lower I.Q. than do whites, to which many of their problems can be ascribed.[13]  Afrocentrists such as Molefi Asante and Asa Hilliard argue that African Americans are harmed by the domination of European culture, with its cold rationalism, selfish individualism, and rigid and linear thinking.[14]  Liberal authors such as John Ogbu and Signithia Fordham point out that African Americans’ refusal to “think white” -- to compete in white-dominated schools, job markets, and criminal justice systems -- is a rationally self-protective response to a system that appears to promise equality of opportunity but actually is structured to ensure that blacks fail.[15]  Dinesh D’Souza argues that most contemporary problems within the black community are caused by African Americans’ own weakness of will or the “civilizational gap” between the white and black cultures.[16]   And there are still others.

What are we to make of these multiple and contradictory interpretations of America’s racial dilemma?  If my claim is right that exponents of one view can almost never persuade others to change their mind, then I would be “squandering… paper that might be put to better use” to try to sort through them.  Analysts will never reach consensus on whether white Americans are intentionally racist, whether American institutions create and maintain white racial domination regardless of anyone’s intentions, whether blacks are capable of assimilating and ought to assimilate into mainstream society, whether racial disparities are as severe as ever  – any more than blacks and whites will agree on the provenance of crack cocaine or O.J. Simpson’s guilt or innocence.   The politics are too entrenched and rewarding on all sides.  The psychological and emotional investments are too strong and public for people to be able to change their minds. It is even possible that the evidence is too indefinite or the real answer too complicated; explanations for racial disparities may vary for different individuals, communities, issues, or time periods.  Or the best explanation may involve an interactive mix whose precise dynamics cannot be measured, controlled, or predicted.

So, “who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?” means “why bother trying to reach consensus, or even the right answer, on the deep underlying causes of Americans’ racial animosity and inequality?”  This is not a counsel of despair.  It is a call for moving away from the search for basic causes toward a search for proximate causes with “a handle... which we can grasp and manipulate”[17] in order to pursue solutions.

Robert Goodin’s concept of  “task responsibility,” which he distinguishes from “causal responsibility,” is useful at this point.[18] The latter is what we normally seek when confronted with racial disparities in views or circumstances -- find the agent(s) or situation(s) that created the problem, identify thereby who or what to blame, and begin thereby to suggest solutions to the problem.  If white racism is responsible for the fact that African Americans on average do less well than white Americans, then whites are to blame and the solution lies in either changing white beliefs and behaviors or insulating blacks from the effects of racist practices.  Conversely, if a “civilizational gap” is responsible for the fact that African Americans on average do less well than white Americans, then blacks are to blame and the solution lies in changing black beliefs and behaviors.  And so on.

Following the logic of causal responsibility is appealing for several reasons.  First, blaming has emotional attractions.  Angry African Americans and white sympathizers want to shift attention away from the enormous self-imposed destruction of inner cities and the possibility that some middle class blacks are victims of their own lack of talent rather than of white racism. Conservatives want to divert attention from the structural causes of individuals’ inability to succeed and from the vast upward transfer of wealth that characterized the United States during the 1980s and early 1990s.  Second, blaming has real instrumental value, assuming that one can correctly identify who or what is to blame. There is, after all, no point in alleviating recurrent symptoms when one could instead be eliminating the underlying cause -- that dictum holds for racial inequality as much as for a headache or fever.

But in race relations as in medicine, one cannot always identify the underlying cause, or treat it even if it is identified.  Here is where task responsibility enters the picture because it changes the question from “whose fault is it?” to “what can we do?”  More precisely, task responsibility is the moral imperative to help someone who is vulnerable to you, regardless of whether you had any role in causing the vulnerability.  Even if people have failed to take advantage of opportunities, as Goodin puts it, “others may still be able to act so as to avert [or correct] harm to them.  To suggest that those others should (or even that they may) stand idly by and watch people reap the bitter fruits of their own improvidence is surely absurd…. Those who have gotten themselves into a dangerous situation …are… enormously (perhaps uniquely) vulnerable to the actions and choices of particular others for getting them out of the mess. On my analysis, such vulnerabilities generate strong responsibilities.”[19]

This argument implies that political actors should find those people and structures which are most immediately available or most capable of solving a given problem, and hold them responsible for its solution -- regardless of whether they caused it in the first place.  Political engagement, that is, would become a search for levers for action: Who can act? What can or must we do to get them to act? What resources do they need to ensure that their actions are effective? Who controls those resources? How can we get them to act?  As these questions suggest, task responsibility is not necessarily simple or straightforward, any more than causal responsibility is.  But it has the distinct advantage of avoiding energy-wasting blaming and defensiveness, and of focusing  efforts on fixing the problem rather than understanding, cataloguing, or defending against it.

How would task responsibility apply in the realm of racial disparities in views and circumstances?  Consider first the question of who.  For a child drowning in the river, task responsibility implies simply seeking the nearest adult who can swim. For a problem like American racial inequality, the search is less simple since “implementing policies [more complex than rescuing a drowning child] … represents a conjunction of opportunity plus motive.” Thus we must revert to the search for causes to the degree that determining the proximate cause of a problem helps us to determine people’s motives for solving it.[20] Less abstractly, consider a black child in an inner city school who cannot read both because a teacher believes that poor black boys cannot or will not learn, and because the child’s mother is illiterate and cannot help him with his homework.  Both adults have the opportunity to help but only one has much incentive to do so.  In this case those with task responsibility should probably direct the lever of a few additional resources to the mother rather than the teacher, since the greater motivation of the former will most likely outweigh the greater skill of the latter.  This prescription obtains despite the fact that the teacher is arguably more to blame for the child’s illiteracy.  (The theory of task responsibility would also require one to determine who has the leverage to remove that teacher from the classroom or to persuade her that all children can learn and deserve a real opportunity to do so.)

I see two alternative, perhaps contradictory, ways of approaching the question of “what?” from a framework of task responsibility.  One strategy is to start with obvious problems that are relatively easily fixed.[21]  New York Magazine recently published a photo essay of school buildings with cardboard in windows, water running through hallways, rooms too cold to work in because coal furnaces provide insufficient heat for the whole building.[22] We should not be surprised if black parents whose children attend that school  believe that the whites running the educational system are indifferent or even hostile. After all, repairing decrepit buildings is not hard -- it takes only money, a little organizational skill, and the willingness to face down truculent custodial unions, corrupt contractors, and lazy school boards. It can, in short, be solved once people at a relatively low level of seniority are held responsible for its solution and are given the resources and authority they need to solve it.

Thus one might determine what tasks people are responsible for by seeing what they can do if their livelihoods depend on it. We should in this view focus on ensuring that teachers teach all children, that employers treat all of their workers with dignity, that police refrain from harassment or unnecessary violence, that social workers attend to vulnerable children in abusive or neglectful homes.  If these actors are unwilling to take on the same task responsibility for black as for white clients, are themselves too vulnerable or short of resources to have any impact, or are carrying out a policy over which they have no discretion, we then turn to people and institutions to which they are vulnerable and who can make a difference in their lives: the school board or teachers’ union, city budgeters, corporate headquarters, authors of welfare regulations, the police commissioner. And so on -- until we find the link of the chain that can repair the school’s windows, ensure children’s safety as they walk to school, and teach them once they reach the classroom.  Then, and only then, can we reasonably ask black parents not to blame white educational administrators for their children’s failure.

The end of the chain of tasks in this model is collective task responsibility.  As Goodin puts it, “those able to help, albeit not as well as those with primary responsibility, retain a residual responsibility to do so in case the others default; and they also have a continuing responsibility to monitor the situation to see whether or not their assistance is in fact required. The limit of this responsibility is, quite simply, the limit of the vulnerable agent's needs and of the responsible agent's capacity to act efficaciously -- no more, but certainly no less.”[23]  In political terms, this precept requires that all citizens contribute to alleviating Americans’ racial hostility, racial domination, and racial excuse-making.  Responsibility will end when America’s racial problem ends, or at least is dramatically reduced, and not sooner. 

The question of what people should be held responsible for might follow a different logic in some circumstances.  Instead of starting with the lowest level of actors working on the most direct tasks and moving outward from there, one might begin at the highest level of the collectivity working on the largest tasks.  That is, getting people out of destructive loops -- low expectations, therefore low effort, therefore low rewards, therefore blaming others and lower expectations -- may need “something more dramatic and frame-breaking” than the incremental, close-to-the-ground steps implied by subsidiarity.[24]  In that case, we should begin at the opposite end of the responsibility chain -- with a large reframing of citizens’ tasks which will inspire people to move out of the blame game into the mode of collective task responsibility.

 To continue with the example of inner city schooling, what might be possible if citizens said, “Our task is to ensure that all children can read and calculate proficiently by age 16; how must we reallocate resources and efforts in order to achieve this goal?” Perhaps with such a reframing of large and urgent concerns, citizens and policy-makers would be able to relinquish at least temporarily the temptation to blame and carp in order to contribute whatever they can to the immense and noble task at hand.

I cannot here resolve the question of just how to put task responsibility into practice.  But whether one starts small with subsidiarity or large with reframing, one ends up sooner or later at collective task responsibility.  How -- in a political culture as individualistic as that of the United States and as full of racial mistrust as implied by the survey data with which I began -- are we to persuade ourselves and others to accept a shared commitment to pursue racial equality and comity?

The answer, paradoxically, lies in what is usually perceived as the individualistic and conservative ideology of the American dream.   That ideology is, for better or worse, the most widely shared framing of what it means to be an American that we have available to us.  In fact, despite the deep divisions across races that I described earlier, most Americans of all races share a belief in the American dream, almost no matter how it is defined or articulated. Thus to put the point most paradoxically, our mutually shared values of individualism and autonomy could bring us together in collective activity to attain our separate goals.

One can resolve that paradox through a clearer understanding of the American dream and its implications for task responsibility.  The dream has four tenets.  Together, they explain who can participate in the dream, what they participate in, how to succeed, and why the dream is worthwhile. The tenets combine into the following formula: everyone has an equal opportunity to participate in a search for success as he or she defines it, and everyone can reasonably anticipate some success.  That success is to be achieved through means under one’s own control, such as ambition and hard work. Achievements must be associated with virtue in order to count as true success.[25]

The polity – that is, Americans as a collectivity -- is responsible for carrying out the tasks implied by the first two tenets.  With regard to who, only governmental policies can enforce strict nondiscrimination against people of color, women, religious minorities, the poor, and other disfavored groups. With regard to what, only governmental policies can provide everyone with the resources they need to fruitfully pursue success.  Those policies should, in my view, include the availability of a good education through high school; enough shelter and sustenance that one can focus on how to succeed rather than how to eat or stay warm; neighborhoods that are safe and decent enough that one can focus on how to pursue success rather than how to make it home alive; possibly the availability of jobs for all who seek them; and a political process and structure that allow all citizens to share in making decisions that affect them..

These are large duties; how to achieve them is the subject of much political debate in which I will not engage here.  But they are balanced by equally large duties held by citizens, encapsulated by the third and fourth tenets of the American dream.  Once the government fulfills its mandate to ensure equal opportunity and a reasonable chance to succeed, then individuals must accept responsibility for their own and their families’ success (or failure), and they have a moral obligation to pursue virtuous, not merely material, success.  Such a balance of responsibilities means, more concretely, that there can no longer be publicly legitimate excuses for illiteracy if schools are good, for unemployment if jobs are available, for abandoning one’s children if social networks are in place, for abdicating engaged citizenship if political channels are open to all, or for claiming victimhood or an irresistible temptation to do evil if one is sane and competent.

How to get individuals to take responsibility for own actions is the subject of even more political and personal debate than how to get the government to fulfill its duties; it too is a debate in which I will not engage here. But the basic point is simple: a focus on task responsibility in the context of the American dream provides essential balance between what the polity must do because individuals cannot, and what individuals must do because the polity cannot or should not.  The polity must provide the means to success for all; individuals must pursue that success as best they can, with help from those to whom they are vulnerable and with help to those vulnerable to them. When vulnerability reaches beyond individuals’ ability to help, then task responsibility reverts again to the collectivity.

In the end, this formulation will help us to overcome the deep and bitter racial divide with which I began this paper. The key point is that Americans of all races generally agree on the tasks implied by the ideology of the American dream, and on the assignment of those tasks to government and individuals respectively.  Virtually all Americans endorse the values of  political equality, equal educational opportunity, equal opportunities in general, and equal respect.  At least three-fourths of all Americans agree that skill rather than need should determine wages, that America should “promote equal opportunity for all” rather than “equal outcomes,” that "everyone should try to amount to more than his parents did," and that they are ambitious themselves.

These are not views held exclusively, or even mainly, by whites. Seventy percent of black, and 80% of white, Californians agree that "trying to get ahead" is very important in "making someone a true American."   More blacks than whites -- and large majorities in both races -- endorse self-sufficiency as one of their primary goals.  Slightly more blacks than whites agree that “there are more opportunities for Americans today than in the past.”  Finally, more blacks than whites (89 to 70 percent) deem it very important for the public schools to teach “the common heritage and values that we share as Americans.”

The most socially engaged African Americans agree with ordinary citizens in endorsing the tenets of the American dream.  At least 85% of leaders of all groups -- including blacks and feminists, labor leaders and businessmen, Democrats and Republicans -- endorse equality of opportunity over equality of results.  At least seven of ten black leaders (and almost all leaders of some other groups) think earnings should depend on ability rather than being distributed equally.   And black adults are passing on the values of the American dream to their children: three-quarters of white youths and even more black youths see "fair treatment for all" and "self-reliance" as extremely important values. One-fourth of white and over half of black youths rank "economic success" equally highly.  Half of the former and two-thirds of the latter similarly rank “helping the less fortunate.” [26]

This is a strong foundation of shared beliefs and values from which to develop an ethos of task responsibility.  It becomes even stronger when we consider the wide array of beliefs that blacks and whites share about the nature of political tasks facing the nation.  Consider affirmative action: Most whites abhor “reverse discrimination” or “racial preferences” -- and many blacks agree. Conversely, most blacks endorse programs to search out qualified minorities for college admissions or jobs, special training programs, wider distribution of information about jobs and other opportunities, the drawing of voting districts to ensure black representation in legislature -- and so a majority of whites.[27]  Even on this most racially charged and controversial of issues, there is a core of agreement among a majority of African Americans and whites that politicians have done little to cultivate and work with.[28]

Or consider crime: throughout the 1990s, white and black Americans have agreed that crime and especially education are the most important issues facing their community.  The two races are about equal in their mistrust of the criminal justice system  (over a third of both blacks and whites express “very little” confidence), and they usually agree on when it is and is not appropriate for a police officer to strike a citizen.   They concur on the need to spend more to  “halt the rising crime rate” and to “deal with drug addiction” (African Americans would like to increase crime and drug spending even more than would whites.)   Large majorities of both races concur that “the courts in this area do not deal harshly enough with criminals.”  Most generally, blacks and whites mostly concur on whether more tax dollars should be spent to solve eight major national problems (ranging from education to health care to crime and drug control).[29]

Or consider education: over eight in ten of both blacks and whites agree that “the country needs common national standards of performance” for all schools.  Even more members of both races further agree that the country needs higher standards of educational achievement.[30] Only three in ten black and two in ten white college freshmen endorse the denial of access to public education for children of undocumented immigrants.[31]

One could repeat this exercise for a variety of policy issues, but the point should by now be clear; there is much greater congruence between African Americans and whites on underlying values and on perceptions of essential public, and private, tasks than on causal explanations for the racial problems our nation faces.  It would be silly to claim perfect congruence on policy issues; I could generate a list of disagreements between the races at least as long as the list of agreements.   My point is only that there is a list of agreements broad enough and specific enough to enable reliance on task responsibility to be a realistic and plausible strategy for ameliorating America’s racial anger and inequality, and lessening some of its deepest social problems.  The same cannot be said about reliance on causal responsibility.






Asante, Molefi (1990) Kemet, Afrocentricity, and Knowledge (Trenton NJ: Africa World Press).


Bell, Derrick (1997) Gospel Choirs: Psalms of Survival in an Alien Land Called Home (HarperCollins).


Bell, Derrick (1992) Faces at the Bottom of the Well (Basic Books).


Committee for Economic Development (1991) An Assessment of American Education (New York: Louis Harris & Associates Inc.)


Cooperative Institutional Research Program (1995) The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 1995 (Los Angeles CA: UCLA, Graduate School of Education)


D’Souza, Dinesh (1995) The End of Racism (New York: Free Press).


Feinberg, Joel (1970) Doing and Deserving (Princeton: Princeton University Press).


Fordham, Signithia (1996) Blacked Out (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).


Goodin, Robert (1985) Protecting the Vulnerable (Chicago: University of Chicago Press)


Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray (1994) The Bell Curve (Free Press)


Hilliard, Asa III, Lucretia Payton-Stewart, and Larry Williams ed. (1990) Infusion of African and African American Content in the School Curriculum (Chicago: Third World Press).


Hochschild, Jennifer (1984) The New American Dilemma (New Haven: Yale University Press)


Hochschild, Jennifer (1995)  Facing Up to the American Dream (Princeton:  Princeton University Press)


Hochschild, Jennifer (1998) “Affirmative Action as Culture War,” in Michele Lamont ed., The Cultural Territories of Race:  White and Black Boundaries (Russell Sage Foundation and University of Chicago Press).


Richard Morin, “Poll Reflects Division Over Simpson Case,” Washington Post, Oct. 8. 1995, pp.  A31, A34


New York Times/WCBS-TV News Poll (1990) "Race Relations in New York City," June 17-20


Ogbu, John (1974) The Next Generation (New York: Academic Press).


Ogbu, John (1988) "Diversity and Equity in Public Education," in Ron Haskins and Duncan MacRae, eds. Policies for America's Public Schools (Ablex): 127-170.


New York Times/CBS News Poll (1996) October 10-13.


Patterson, Orlando (1989) “Toward a Study of Black America,” Dissent, fall: 476-86.


Patterson, Orlando (1997)  The Ordeal of Integration: Progress and Resentment in America’s “Racial” Crisis  (Washington D.C.: Civitas/Counterpoint)


Steeh, Charlotte and Maria Krysan (1996) “Trends: Affirmative Action and the Public, 1970-1995, Public Opinion Quarterly 60, No. 1: 128-158


Thernstrom, Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom (1997) America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible (New York: Simon & Schuster)


Tomasky, Michael (1996) “All Fall Down,” New York, Feb.  12: 44-49


University of Massachusetts McCormack Institute Poll (1998) Conflict and Convergence: Race, Public Opinion, and Political Behavior in Massachusetts  (Amherst MA: University of Massachusetts)


U.S. Department of Justice (1997) Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics--1996 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office)


Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll, Oct. 27-31, 1995


Washington Post/ Kaiser Family Foundation/ Harvard University Survey Project (1995) The Four Americas  (Menlo Park CA: Kaiser Family Foundation).


 Wilson, William J. (1980) The Declining Significance of Race (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).


Wilson, William J. (1996) When Work Disappears (New York: Knopf)

     [1]  Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll (1995)

     [2]  New York Times/ WCBS News Poll (1990).  African Americans with at least some college education found all three charges much more plausible than did African Americans with less than high school education.  Among whites, the pattern was reversed (see Hochschild 1995: 106).

[3]   New York Times/CBS Poll, Nov. 1996.  On this survey also, more well- than poorly-educated African Americans found the drug hypothesis true or plausible.  My thanks to Michael Kagay of The New York Times for analyzing the data on this and the previous poll for me. 

     [4] Hochschild 1995: 60-61.

     [5] Washington Post/Kaiser Foundation/Harvard University Survey Project 1995

     [6]Washington Post/Kaiser Foundation/Harvard University Survey Project 1995

     [7] Evidence for this and the preceding paragraph are in Hochschild 1995: 60-67.  See also University of Massachusetts 1998

     [8]  Morin 1995

      [9] Bell 1997, 1992

     [10] Patterson 1989; his newer work (1997) focuses more on seeking pragmatic solutions to what now he presents as a more malleable and complex racial structure.

[11] Thernstrom and Thernstrom 1997: 17, 492; for a similar argument see Sleeper 1997

      [12] Wilson 1980, 1996

     [13] Herrnstein and Murray 1994

     [14] Asante 1990; Hilliard et al. 1990

     [15] Ogbu 1974, 1988; Fordham 1996

[16]  D’Souza 1995

      [17] The quotation is from Feinberg 1970: 144

     [18]  Goodin 1985

     [19] Goodin 1985: 129

     [20] Personal communication, Goodin to author, May 21, 1996

[21] This argument has affinities with the European principle of subsidiarity, as well as with Saul Alinsky’s  recipe for neighborhood regeneration and rebellion.  Thus it does not have either a clear leftist or rightist caste.

      [22] Tomasky 1996

     [23] Goodin 1985: 134-5

     [24]Personal communication, Goodin to author, May 21, 1996. As I wrote a decade ago, after reviewing the history of school desegregation policies, “incrementalism... does little to help either minorities of whites and does a lot to harm them.  Half a loaf, in this case, may be worse than none at all” (Hochschild 1984: 91).

     [25] For further analysis of this ideology, see Hochschild 1995

     [26] For citations and further evidence for the past three paragraphs, see Hochschild 1995: 55-56

     [27]Steeh and Krysan 1996

[28] Hochschild 1998

     [29]Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics 1996: 114-5, 118, 133, 141, 142-3, 144-5, 148-9

     [30] Committee for Economic Development 1991: 117, 125.

     [31] Cooperative Institutional Research Program 1995: 29.