Reckoning with Race confronts America's most intractable problem--race. The book outlines in a provocative, novel manner American racial issues from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present. It explodes myths about the South as America's exclusive racial scapegoat. The book moves to the Great Migration north and the urban ghettos which still plague America. Importantly, the evergreen topics of identity, assimilation, and separation come to the fore in a balanced, uncompromising, and unflinching narrative. People, cities, and regions are profiled. Despite civil rights legislation, the racial divide between the races remains a chasm. A plethora of reports, commissions, conferences, and other highly visible gestures, purporting to do something have generated publicity, but little else. There remain no adequate structures--family, community or church--to provide leadership. Destructive cultural traits cannot be explained solely by poverty.
The book asks and answers many questions. After emancipation, how were blacks historically segregated from the rest of American society? Why is self-segregation still a feature of black society? Why do large numbers of blacks resist assimilation and the acceptance of middle class norms of behavior? Why has there been so little black penetration in the private sector? Why did the removal of overt legal segregation and civil rights legislation in the 1960s not settle the racial conundrum? What are the differences and similarities between the leaders of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and today? Why do we still have the problems enumerated in the Kerner Commission report (1968) after trillions of dollars have been spent promote black progress? What, if anything, should be done, to eliminate the racial divide?
Gene Dattel grew up in the majority-black cotton country of the Mississippi Delta. He was educated at Yale University and Vanderbilt University Law School. He then embarked on a twenty-year career in finance as a managing director of Salomon Brothers and Morgan Stanley. He lived overseas for fifteen years--London, Hong Kong, and Tokyo during his financial profession. His first book The Sun that Never Rose presciently outlined Japan's long term structural economic problems when conventional wisdom predicted an unassailable economic juggernaut. His most recent book, Cotton and Race in the Making of America (2009) describes the fateful intersection of the power of cotton to the African American experience. He is now a financial and cultural historian who lectures widely.