REVIEWS: “ROLL CALL” OF THE NEGRO INTELLECTUAL: A Critique of Harold Cruse’s “Crisis of the Negro Intellectual”

In very broad term these statements appear to be truisms in the ·holistic tradition of Marx and Durkheim. But we should ask are the Jews, Wasps and other minorities more of a “social group” than the Negroes? It seems to be the case that individualism and inter-personal conflicts are pervasive equally amongst dominant groups, and that it is only their stock of wealth which gives the appearance of greater unity. Cruse over-emphasises the unitary nature of non-negro ethnic groups. He is so over concerned with the intra-group conflicts amongst the Negroes that he fails to stress the conflicts between the Wasps and “Others”. He could not see the truism that a group calling for change is always more prone to apparent divisions, more so than the stationary elite which has but the one choice of protecting their positions, while the groups on the march have many paths, alternatives and choices. Rather than over-stressing these strategic factors. Cruse could have added balance to the book, and justice to the Black movement, by adding that though the Blacks are divided over strategies, yet they are united in their determination to move. Paradoxically, though Cruse has used an historical approach, he has left us with no faith, nor optimism derived from our past he can see no “coming-to-being” process operating beneath the outer crust of dissensions and conflicts.

Against his general formulation about the group nature of America, we may add that it seems that the fundamental dividing line in America is not an absolute and objective thing but depends, instead, on one’s own values and the theoretical dictates of our model. Rather than being the group divisions that Cruse sees a more meaningful line of demarcation would be the colour-cast line of Lloyd Warner’s. For irrespective of how well the negroes are organised to form a group, their efforts will still be frustrated by the long-established system of “mobilised biases”. These biases seem uniquely operative against the “peoples of colour”.

Despite the flaws in his theory, yet he derives from it a correct formula for the alleviation of racial tensions. For him:

 “Harlem ghetto still represents the negroes strongest bastion in America from which launch whatever group effort he is able to mobilize for political power, economic rehabilitation and cultural reidentification … The way Harlem goes (or does not go) so goes all Black America”(Cruse, P.12).

Cruse prescribes ghetto integration and ghetto socialism since these involve both the necessary structural changes and the con-committant changes in Negro values.

When Cruse touches on other sociological issues he displays a lack of alertness and sophistication. A few illustrations will suffice.

After giving a very valid Marxist interpretation of the mass media he postulates:

“The Mass Communications media have over the past forty years changed America into a mass society” (Cruse, P. 65).

 This casual inference is far from correct. The mass media does not “cause” mass society. but is itself the product of changes induced by the Industrialisation process. Not only this. His inclusion of the notions of mass society is inconsistent with his other claim about the group nature of American society. Mass society theorists would see the society as consisting of a pyramid structure, with the “amorphous masses” at the base, and that includes both poor whites and blacks alike.