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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Now?: Multicultural Conservatism in America (American History & Culture) (American History and Culture Series) Paperback – 28 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New York University Press (28 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814719406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814719404
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,907,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Smart and thoughtful ... Perceptive" --The Women's Review of Books "One does not associate scholars with perfect timing, news-wise, but Angela D. Dillard's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Now? could not be more of the moment." --New York Times Book Review "An excellent overview of this new movement." --The New Republic "If you, like many, marveled that George W. Bush not only did but could put together a cabinet and staff that was racially diverse as well as fiscally and morally conservative, here's a book you'll want to read." --Ms. magazine

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Expanding the Dialogue 3 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be an incredibly useful introduction to a subject that I previously knew very little about. I had always assumed that minority conservatives had somehow coopted themselves for political gain, but Ms. Dillard brilliantly details the evolution of minority conservative thought. In addition, this book tells us why figures like Clarence Thomas are a permanent part of America's political landscape, and why those of us who want to see constructive change in this country need to come to terms with minority conservative thought.
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
An Incomplete Meal?? 9 April 2001
By RafE - Published on
Format: Hardcover
A few notes:
1.) Generally speaking, this book is a good (not very good and certainly not great) overview of political conservatism among blacks, hispanics, women and gays. Readers should supplement this book with a number of the articles and books referenced in Professor Dillard's excellent bibliography.
2.) The absence of ANY mention of the tremendously influential William Julius Wilson in this book is stunning, in part because there has been a long-running debate about Wilson's "true" political perspective, with those like Yale professor Willie Wilson placing him in the "conservative" category, while others (including Wilson himself) label him a liberal (and perhaps even a democratic socialist/progressive).
3.) Professor Dillard greatly underestimates how certain liberal errors of thought and temperament have lead to an understandable "conservative" counter-movement that may have nothing to do with personal ill-will, racial antagonism, or other base motives. She virtually dismisses campus "political correctness" (of the left) as a factor, when in truth the "PC" flame of the left has burned brightly on many campuses for well over a decade now. Further, she views any criticism of the Black Power movement as inherently conservative in nature. In fact a defense of the traditional civil rights movement (under King, B. Rustin, Evars, and others)as opposed to the Black Power of Newton and others, can be construed as a defense of the LIBERAL tradition in this country.
3.) Prof. Dillard could also do a better job of actually critiquing some of the more radical, libertarian-leaning ideas (economic and otherwise) of the multicultural conservative crew. Even totally debunking just a few well-known examples (D'Souza's The End of Racism, for one) would have been of service. Too often she simply skims the surface, instead of diving in.
4.) Dillard's book is important because she places her finger squarely on an increasing trend toward "multicultural conservatism" (particularly among Asians and Hispanics). For those who have little or no familiarity with the issues she raises, this book may be quite an eye-opener, indeed. For those already steeped in the issues she discusses, the book will be of more limited value. I suggest skimming the book a bit before deciding on a purchase.
11 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Reasonably respectful, but unarmed for intellectual combat 9 Jun. 2001
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
ANGELA DILLARD, a young black political historian of leftist views, has written a well-intentioned book about "multicultural conservative" intellectuals, whom she defines as blacks (such as Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, and Clarence Thomas), Hispanics (e.g., Linda Chavez), gays (e.g., Andrew Sullivan), and women (e.g., Midge Decter and Gertrude Himmelfarb). Theoretically, lesbian conservatives would also qualify, but Dillard can find only two. Although she quotes a number of Asian conservatives, such as education reformer Arthur Hu, she can't make up her mind whether Asians are multicultural enough to count.
Obviously, there's not much conceptual coherence to her grouping. The euphemism "multicultural" is popular because it obfuscates the fact that most identity-politics categories are fundamentally biological. Blacks, for example, are a racial group defined by their possessing some degree of African ancestry. They are not a culture, per se. The notion that blacks are permanently stuck with a culture clearly separate from white America's (either because of white racism or genetic difference) is precisely what many black conservatives oppose. They envision an America that is multiracial but essentially monocultural.
Similarly, women belong to a sex, not a culture. If female conservatives were actually defined by a shared culture, then Decter and Himmelfarb could have passed it on to their sons John Podhoretz and William Kristol; but what they passed on was conservatism, not "female conservatism." And whatever it is that causes male homosexuality also seems to incline gay men away from anti-elitist multiculturalism and toward conserving the high culture of Dead White European Males. Just imagine how moribund ballet, sculpture, painting, opera, and the Broadway musical would be today without gay men. Nevertheless, the steady growth in the number of conservative pundits who are not straight white guys is an important topic.
The fact that Dillard treats her conservative subjects with a certain amount of respect makes her nearly unique among leftists. Dillard deserves praise for overcoming her original prejudice that black conservatives must be "traitors, sellouts, and self-loathing lackeys." Within the claustrophobic limits imposed by her liberal perspective, she is surprisingly fair. For instance, she points out that although the first major black woman novelist, Zora Neale Hurston, is jealously worshiped by leftist feminists, she was in fact a staunch conservative. She also admits that the conservative establishment's warm reception of black intellectuals reflects a change in attitudes on race that her fellow leftists would prefer to ignore.
Sadly, however, Dillard is ill-equipped to offer much meaningful or substantive analysis of the arguments of minority conservatives. She is interested only in analyzing these thinkers' rhetorical positioning, especially the relationship between their autobiographies and the stands they took. Dillard lives in the postmodern dreamland that hovers disconnected from reality like Gulliver's Laputa, the floating island of intellectuals. Her disdain for facts is palpable. For example, she repeatedly labels as "stereotypes" all references to blacks' suffering from high rates of illegitimacy and murder. It never seems to occur to her that they describe actual live babies and dead bodies. She also accuses "multicultural conservatives" of trying "to assimilate on the backs of the black poor." In reality, black conservatives since Booker T Washington have traditionally focused more on uplifting the black poor, while black liberals have worked harder to help the black elite that W. E. B. DuBois dubbed the "Talented Tenth." The NAACP, for instance, cares more about restoring quotas at UC-Berkeley than doing anything that would actually help inner-city schools.
The value of nonwhite pundits to the conservative movement is reflected in an old joke that the humorless Dillard fails to include:
"Q. What do you call a black man at a Heritage Foundation conference?"
"A. Keynote speaker."
Okay, it's not too hilarious, but it does point out three facts about nonwhite conservative intellectuals. First, the best are highly impressive figures. Second, the very existence of nonwhite conservative spokesmen is hugely reassuring to white conservatives terrified of being called "racist." Third, as George W Bush's dismal performance among minority voters last November demonstrated, the problem is not that there are too few minority conservative thinkers but that there are too few such voters. Conservatives should therefore take heed of Dillard's forecast that all this minority intellectual support won't translate into many minority votes.
Dillard's political predictions are much more interesting than her policy analysis. Writing before the 2000 election, she argued that conservatism has "little likelihood of a deep and lasting success" among nonwhite voters. The election results did nothing to disprove that thesis. Despite his outreach efforts, George W. Bush still ended up earning just 35 percent of the Hispanic vote and 9 percent of the black vote. (In Bush's home state of Texas, he carried more than 70 percent of the white vote, but a mere 5 percent of black voters.) He did a bit better among Asians, but even there he was trounced 54-41. Blacks and Asians actually gave a larger share of their votes to the hapless Bob Dole in 1996. Even for those who hold a more optimistic view of conservatism's prospects among "multicultural" voters, numbers like that should give pause.
Steve Sailer is a columnist for VDARE and an adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute.
3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Timely but slight 26 Sept. 2001
By Jeffrey Ellis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Multicultural conservatism is often treated like "the evil that no one dark speaks its name." When it is acknowledged that the number of black, hispanic, and gay conservatives is actually on the rise, it is often done with a strange sort of somberness -- as if the fact that Larry Elder might not agree with Al Sharpton is somehow indicative of some terrible social problem. Certainly, common sense would say that, just as white males often disagree with each other, so would everyone else. But, for whatever reason, most commentators seem to be both amazed and disturbed to see that not all minorities can be easily categorized into one vague ideological subgroup.
In her slight (far-too-short for the subject matter she's trying to address) book, self-described liberal Angela Dillard makes an attempt to present a non-biased, clear headed view of these "multicultural conservatives." While it is indeed nice to see that this trend is finally getting some sort of attention, Dillard still fails to achieve her goal. Her own politics run rampant through the book and she can't resist the temptation to editorially comment on the views of her subjects -- often with the same degrading attitude that she claims to have written this book to combat. In fact, Dillard's weakness is apparent from just the title of her book. Its doubtful that many of the commentators Dillard describes in her book would appreciate being referred to as "multi-cultural." While paying lip service to the unwarranted dismissal of folks like Larry Elder and Armstrong Williams by the liberal media, Dillard instead spends most of her time obsessing over the apparent "exploitation" of these conservatives by the Republican Party. For all of her claims to the contrary, its obvious that Dillard is no different from other dismissive analysts in her refusal to see her subjects as individuals as opposed to just some group of bizarre crackpots.
There's little doubt that people like Linda Chavez, Elder, Williams, Ward Connerly, and others would rather be known simply as "conservatives" then to be labeled and set apart on account of their race and gender. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen. Not until it becomes acceptable to admit that white, middle class males aren't the only ones capable of forming their own opinions through their own independent thoughts and individual beliefs. Dillard's book is a beginning but its hardly the definitive treatment. Its not even close. Some day, hopefully, someone will have the guts to set aside their own biases and treat these individuals as just that -- Individuals with the dignity they deserve. Unfortunately, that may require more guts than most political analyst's seem to possess nowadays.
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