The Public Interest

The empty-head blues: black rebellion and white reaction

Aaron Wildavsky

Spring 1968

Liberals have been moaning those empty-head blues. They feel bad. They know the sky is about to fall in. But they cant think of anything to do. Having been too sanguine and too self-righteous about their part in the civil rights movement, they are too easily prey to despair when their contribution is rejected by those they presumed to help. Torn between a nagging guilt and a secret desire to turn on their black tormentors, white liberals have become spectators watching with frozen horror as their integrationist ideals and favorite public programs disintegrate amidst violent black rebellion. How did this maddening situation come about? What can be done about it?

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