Book Report-Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power Essay
God condemns for life, whose texture of the skin is black, seems to be the approach and the subject matter of this book. Ghetto is not an inspiring word, and the adjective ‘dark’ makes the case even hopeless. The explanation of the word ghetto given by the author makes an authentic ‘synopsis’ of the contents of the book. He writes, “Ghetto was the name of the Jewish quarter in sixteenth-century Venice. Later, it came to mean any section of a city to which Jews were confined.
America has contributed to the concept of ghetto the restriction of persons to a special area and the limiting of their freedom of choice on the basis of skin color. The dark ghetto’s invisible walls have been erected by the white society, by those who have power, both to confine those who have no power, and to perpetuate their powerlessness. The dark ghettos are social, political, educational, and –above all-economic colonies. Their inhabitants are subject peoples, victims of greed, cruelty, insensitivity, guilt and fear of their masers!”(p. 11)
The book highlights the past history of the Negroes in a country which once gave the legal status to the practice of slavery, and the subsequent period when Negroes got constitutional rights and legally they were equal citizens enjoying voting rights. The message in the book to the younger generation of Negroes is to give up the inferiority complex and fight for their rights. It should not be a vocal fight, but in the practical sense of the term. Only theorizing and harping about the injustice is no solution to the problem.
It is the problem of the Negroes and they have to find solutions. None else will do it for them– forget the white community! They need to give up the negative approach to life, shun complacency and be the willing, equal partners in every type of activity, like political, social, cultural, educational, sports etc. They must make their presence felt in all walks of life and live life in its trials, tribulations, duty and beauty. In fine, the topic of the book is to create awareness among the Negroes and give point by point advice as to how to shape their lives in the American society.
A brief summary: “Young people in the ghetto are aware that other young people have been taught to read, that they have been prepared for college, and can compete successfully, for white-collar, managerial, and executive jobs. ”(p. 12). It is not easy to pacify the combustible younger generation of Negroes about a peace-loving approach to shape their lives. They are impatient, and are not willing to wait. Negroes have a special sociological problem. Not long ago, slavery had been their heritage. The torch of slavery was passed on to them by their fore-fathers.
Subsequent enactments and legislations armed them with the constitutional rights. But the going has been tough, even after the Negroes became citizens with equal rights as that of whites. The struggle has become different for them, it is not over. It will perhaps never be over, according to the authors. In the orchestra of the national life of America, the status of Negroes continues to remain like the muffled drum. Cark, is eminently suited to write on the subject of issues related to the Blacks, but even he finds the subject going tough and he is unable to provide clear-cut answers to the vexed problems.
Personally he was successful in achieving the desired goal and his life could be the role model for the younger generation of Negroes. He was the first permanent Black Professor in the faculty of City College in New York City in 1942. He did his best to find ways and means to use his knowledge in the social sciences for the cause of racial justice. Mention of his research on the self-image of Black children where Clark gave the response of more than 200 Black Children who were given a choice of white or brown dolls. This experiment was a breakthrough in 20th century social science.
With this experiment Clark concluded that segregation was psychologically damaging. In the concluding pages of the book, Clark arrives at more or less definite conclusion when he says, “The effective, constructive use of power is indicated not merely by expressing a desire for a change, but by the demonstration of the ability to achieve it. There is an important and often overlooked distinction between pseudo power, which is restricted to a verbal or posturing level of reality—by word or by acting “as if” –and actual power, demonstrated in social action and social change.”(p. 200)
The thesis of the book: Whether is ever possible for the Negroes in America or for the black race as a whole to enjoy and experience equality of status in all walks of life in the true sense of the term? Gone are the days when the Negroes believed that it is better to deserve without receiving, than to receive without deserving! Lip sympathy of the white race and their superficial acceptance that the blacks are their equal and willing partners for all practical purposes will not be trusted by the thinking black community.
There is a limit to their patience, and they are not going to accept the waitlisted status anymore. They say it vocally; they say it through demonstrations, peaceful and violent. They are no more afraid of the back-lash of the white community and their threats of retaliation. The attitude of the moderate Negroes—do not strike hard– is no more the majority view. The modern view point is—when you strike, strike so hard, so that there is no need to strike again! The Negro youth is not afraid of death. They wish to live with the ideals which they cherish.
Further elaborating the dilemma relating to the black and white integration in the mainstream of American Society, Clark writes, “Negroes are increasingly reminded of the sting of the “white back-lash. ” Many middle class Negroes as well as whites accept these arguments and behave accordingly. Yet the threat is not new. The struggle of those with power to deny power to those who have none is age-old, and accommodation and appeasement have not resolved it. ”(p. 17) Identify the evidence used by the author to support his thesis:
Clark, since 1950s often served as an expert witness for the NAACP in its legal struggles against segregation. His research on the self-image of Black Children is the hall-mark of his career. He studied the response of more than 200 Black Children who were given the choice of white or brown dolls . The children liked and showed preference for the white dolls. This sent the psychologist in Clark to ponder in depth about the social issue involved in the response of the children. He proved that segregation was psychologically damaging.
This finding helped in a landmark judgment given by the Supreme Court that outlawed segregated education. The case in point was Brown v. Board of Education. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going,’—how true this statement was about Clark! He knew he had a cause to serve and that was not alone through writing books and publishing articles! The changing ground level realities can be experience by involving without intermission, in the grass-rot level activities, so that he is ever in touch with the poor section of the Negro people.
He was actively associated with many community development programs. He was an adviser to local and national policy makers. The Clark couple founded the North side Child Development Center in Harlem. That was to take care of the emotionally disturbed children. In 1962, Clark was also instrumental in founding of Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited. Compare and contrast the ideas in the book with those in the civil rights: The book advises the Negroes at every level of the society not to sit and brood. Clark, by his observations and comments on the race issue, enthuses!
The question is not whether the Whites will overrun the Negroes, or the Negroes will triumph over the Whites! The connecting bridge lies somewhere in between. But his stand in support of the black race is unconditional. He poignantly explains the double tragedy of the Negro people. “The poor are always alienated from normal society, and when the poor are Negro, as they are increasingly are in American cities, a double trauma exists—rejection on the basis of class and race is a danger to the stability of society as a whole. ”(p.21)
According to Clark, to have your rights printed in the Constitution and other legislations is one thing. What is more important, is exercising your rights! What you do to get it is not important; how you do, what you do is indeed important. He continued his relentless fight against segregated education, as the only Black member of the New York Board of Regents. He won the NAACP’s Spin garn Medal in 1961 for work relating to civil rights. He was elected as President of the American Psychological Association for his contribution to psychology.
He also won their Gold Medal Award. My own opinion about this book: Clark is not a brilliant author; he is brilliant among the brilliants! Personally, he accomplished so much and spent his energies for the cause that was so dear to his heart– Emancipation of the Negroes! His efforts to make them respectable citizens of America are laudable. The book makes a sterling contribution, raises several issues, and offers many tangible solutions for the betterment of race relations.
Clark has the good of the country at his heart. Without the country, there is no white race, there is no black race—Clark is fully aware of this fact. Therefore, his method of fight is to remain as the part of the establishment and to fight from within. He makes the very correct observation, when he says, “It is now generally understood that chronic and remediable social injustices corrode and damage the human personality, thereby robbing it of its effectiveness, of its creativity, if not it’s actual humanity. ”