One Nation Indivisible: How Ethnic Separatism Threatens America

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9780201180725: One Nation Indivisible: How Ethnic Separatism Threatens America

One Nation Indivisible is a warning about the future of America: If we continue to pursue policies of racial separation, our children and grandchildren may no longer be citizens of one great and united land.Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson warns that we are courting racial and ethnic separation at the very moment we should be seeking unity. Both majorities and minorities are adopting separatist practices, and even our courts endorse separatist principles at the expense of equal treatment under the law. For Wilkinson, these policies are chilling echoes of the rigid division he recalls from growing up in a segregated state. Rather than unite us, even well-intended separatism solidifies racial barriers and guarantees our country a future of ethnic strife.Wilkinson praises the multiculturalism of New America, criticizing those who assail immigration or belittle the contributions of minorities. But he laments the dangers of affirmative action based on racial goals and the pitfalls of education that does not help immigrants acculturate. He uses his own run for Congress to show how voting districts drawn on racial lines marginalize minorities. Rejecting the notion of an Inaccessible Racial Experience, he warns that speech codes based on that idea prevent us from even discussing our problems. One Nation Indivisible challenges us as Americans—do we want to enter the twenty-first century united or separate? “If we do not change our course,” Wilkinson warns, “our hopes for national unity will be overtaken by the reality of racial division.”

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Review:

The United States has never been as racially and ethnically diverse as right now, writes federal judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, III. In 1980, there were only a handful of Chinese restaurants in Birmingham, Alabama. Today, there are more than 60. But diversity isn't just about cuisine. It poses significant cultural and legal challenges, and Wilkinson is concerned that old-fashioned thinking about race could push his country in dangerous directions. Don't "take Model T civil rights law onto the multicultural superhighway," he warns. Wilkinson advances many conservative ideas (such as getting rid of racial preferences), but does so in a humane way that should appeal to liberals.

From Kirkus Reviews:

A contradictory book of social and legal commentary that attempts to embrace so-called New America's increasingly multiracial character and deal with the author's lingering doubts about Americans' real capacity to live with our ethnic differences. A son of Richmond, Va.'s WASP elite, a former deputy attorney general for civil rights under President Reagan, and a federal judge since 1984, Wilkinson has seen the handwriting on the wall, recognizing that America's customary bipolar, black-and-white concept of race is not appropriate for a multiracial society where Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing population and Hispanic- Americans will soon surpass African-Americans as the largest minority. But Wilkinson fears that increased diversity has simply multiplied the racial fault lines in this country, and he dreads what he sees as the continuing evolution of a contentious society where race becomes a ``premier civic credential.'' He notes with real alarm the fading of the integrative ideal that once lived in the hearts of most black Americans. He also says that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has become ``a runaway train of racial separation'' and argues against the entrenchment of what he views as a system of racial shares and entitlements in affirmative-action policy. In the most illuminating sections of the book, however, Wilkinson describes how his father's generation of enlightened men among Richmond's great white city fathers inadequately faced the leadership challenge of stemming the resistance that welled up in response to Brown v. Board of Education and the prospect of school integration. Wilkinson clearly doesn't want his own generation of establishment leaders to be found wanting in the same ways, but he still finds it difficult not to underplay the reality of white domination and its restrictions. Consequently, he circles around and then disappointingly evades the critical question: If ethnic separatism threatens America, whose separatism is it anyway, and what do we do about it? -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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