U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Defusing Race: Developments Since the Kerner Report (From Impacts of Racism on White Americans, P 51-69, 1981, Benjamin P Bowser and Raymond G Hunt, eds. -- See NCJ-121103)

NCJ Number
J A Ladner; W W Stafford
Date Published
19 pages
The Kerner Commission Report, issued in 1968, did not represent the attitudes and opinions of mainstream American society, and race relations and civil rights developments in the 1970's reflected the relative power of white-dominated professions to define and articulate race problems from their own perspectives.
At the time of the Kerner Report, many of the more recognized symbols and legislative achievements of blacks occurred when political and economic views of race and minorities were being given new interpretations. Another factor at the time was the continual growth of the service sector of the economy and white collar employment relative to the traditional manufacturing sector. As the industrial sector changed, union membership among blue collar workers, including blacks, declined. During the 1970's, blacks attempted to institutionalize statutory and constitutional rights that invited new forms of participation. By the late 1970's, race alone was an insufficient criterion for minority status, and society was faced with the challenge of defining minority status in economic and political terms. Affirmative action emerged to include not only blacks but also women, homosexuals, the elderly, the handicapped, ex-convicts, drug addicts and alcoholics, and white ethnics. Further, the inability of a major segment of the population to control or interpret changes during the 1970's contributed to an inward-looking middle class seeking new answers and alternatives. A crisis of leadership was also evident, with the end of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. There was a decline in liberalism, and the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 was the culmination of the collective efforts of conservative forces. While the Kerner Report validated the problems and rights of blacks, special interest political groups subsequently emerged to set the norms of society and exclude blacks from meaningful participation.