Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) February 15, 2014: In-groups and out-groups have been formed in different societies over the centuries. For example, in ancient times, we find the Greek/barbarian categorization of a certain in-group (Greeks) versus the out-group (barbarians = all non-Greeks), the Jew/gentile categorization (gentiles = all non-Jews), and the Christian/pagan categorization (pagans = all non-Christians).
In more recent centuries, in American culture down to the 1960s, we find that white Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) dominated the prestige culture, relegating everybody else to the out-group (= all non-whites and all non-Anglo-Saxons and all non-Protestants).
However, in each of these examples, the people in the supposed out-group usually were not one cohesive group. Instead, they were several out-groups. For example, blacks were one out-group, even though most of them were Protestants. Roman Catholics were another out-group, even though most of them were white. Jews were another out-group, even though most of them were white.
Nevertheless, in American culture in the 1950s and 1960s, the black civil rights movement managed to win widespread support among certain whites, resulting in landmark civil rights legislation under President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Tragically, President Johnson also escalated American involvement in the Vietnam war, and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader of the black civil rights movement, was also involved in anti-war protests.
Tragically, Dr. King was assassinated in 1968. His assassination sparked riots in certain parts of the country.
After Richard M. Nixon was elected president in 1968, it fell to his administration to help restore law and order, on the one hand, and, on the other, restore peace and calm and hope among blacks by promoting affirmative action and so-called black capitalism.
But in the years following Dr. King's tragic assassination, his dream of racial integration met with resistance not only from many whites, but also from certain blacks.
DIGRESSION: In my junior year at Saint LouisUniversity, the Jesuit university in St. Louis, I listened to Dr. King deliver an afternoon address to a packed gymnasium on October 12, 1964. Evidently, he was the first Baptist minister ever allowed to speak publicly on a Jesuit campus. On October 14, 1964, Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On March 25, 1965, I and other students from the St. Louis area joined Dr. King's march on Montgomery, Alabama.
Between 1969 and 1979, I taught approximately one thousand college-age black youth and a comparable number of white students under open admissions in St. Louis and New York City. In 1975-1976, I was invited to teach at the CityCollege of the City University of New York (CUNY). During that year, New York City went bankrupt. In part, this was brought about by the ambitious and idealistic experiment in open admissions at all the two-year and four-year institutions in CUNY. Theodore L. Goss has ably recounted those years at CityCollege in his book Academic Turmoil: The Reality and Promise of Open Education (1980).
For my part, I discussed CityCollege in my article "Literacy, the Basics, and All That Jazz" in the January 1977 College English, volume 38, pages 443-459. Subsequently, I tackled the thornier issue of black and white differences on IQ tests in my articles "IQ and Standard English" in the December 1983 College Composition and Communication, volume 34, pages 470-484, and "In Defense of Requiring Standard English" in the journal Pre/Text, volume 7 (1986, pages 165-180). Briefly, drawing on the work of cultural historians Walter J. Ong, S.J., and Eric A. Havelock, I hypothesized that the interiorization of literacy and literate modes of thought and expression is involved in receiving higher scores on IQ tests.
Unfortunately, at the time when I was writing about black inner-city students, I was not familiar with Gary Simpkins' promising reading research in his 1976 doctoral dissertation at the University of Massachusetts. He styles the approach to reading instruction that he studied as the cross-cultural approach to reading. To this day, this sounds to me like the most promising approach to take to reading instruction for black students -- and probably also for other students who need help with reading.
Concerning the lack of functional literacy, see Jonathan Kozol's book Illiterate America (1985). Perhaps I should add here that the widely accepted goal for American primary and secondary education is to turn out students who are functionally literate. If you are not functionally literate in America today, you are probably going to be socially and economically handicapped. END OF DIGRESSION.
TANNER COLBY'S BOOK
In his book Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America, Tanner Colby says, "If children conform to the standards set by their peers, in the 1970s and 1980s the peer pressure for black children to keep with their own was intense" (page 33).
In the terminology of in-groups and out-groups, they were being pressured to form a cohesive in-group of their own -- ostensibly to resist certain efforts toward integration and to celebrate their own cultural heritage.