Women and the Cairo ConferenceIf we credit Mr. Berger with...


September 05, 1994

Women and the Cairo Conference

If we credit Mr. Berger with both saying what he means and

meaning what he says, we are left with two dominant concerns.

On one level, he appears to be telling us that in order to preserve the appearance of tolerance people should disguise their true attitudes by using socially acceptable expressions that speak on multiple levels simultaneously.

If you talk about "urban" violence or "inner-city" ills, your intended audience will know whom you are talking about. This has become such a common mode of expressing racial and ethnic attitudes that for many years social scientists have identified it as an integral component of what we call "the new prejudice."

On another level, Mr. Berger seems to be saying that intergroup relations in this country are really not as bad as they seem. The problem, he tells us, is "imprecision of language."

But the inequities of race and ethnicity in this country are not problems of word usage, they are matters of economic hardship and psychological trauma.

Like the individuals he criticizes, Mr. Berger is operating in such a state of denial that he is oblivious to the true meaning of what he has written, and he will doubtless be hurt by the rebuke it elicits.

Yet as long as representatives of the major media persist in denying the fundamentals of prejudice, institutional discrimination and ethnoviolence, then American prospects for genuine pluralism and harmonious group relations are dim.

Howard J. Ehrlich

Robert D. Purvis


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