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April 29, 2010
By Mary Hunton
After nearly three years of work, Associate Professor Greta de Jong of the History Department is publishing her second book, “Invisible Enemy,” on racism in the post-civil rights era. “Invisible Enemy” is part of a larger book series by Wiley Blackwell called “America’s Recent Past” that focuses on developments since the 1960s and ‘70s.
“They wanted short, accessible books that would be suitable for college students and general readers looking at recent history,” de Jong said. She received an email from the editor of the series looking for someone to write a book on African-Americans after the 1960s.
De Jong had written a book before this one about the African-American freedom struggle in Louisiana from the early 20th century to the 1960s and was working on another project that focused on the rural South in the post-civil rights era, so she was more than prepared to tackle this new task.
“I was able to incorporate some of my own research into this book,” she said, “and I did additional reading and drew on the work of other scholars who had been looking at northern communities and globalization and things like that.”
This book focuses on the systems that disadvantage African-Americans today and at the way African-Americans struggle against those continuing forms of racism.
“I think that a lot of people assume that [civil rights] legislation ended racial discrimination in the United States, but it did not,” de Jong said. “There were legacies of racism that were never addressed, especially in the economic arena.”
De Jong sees the black freedom struggle as something more than a fight against discrimination.
“When I talk about the freedom struggle, that refers to the idea that black struggles are not just about legalized discrimination or Jim Crow or political rights or civil rights,” she said. “They’re also about economic justice, and that’s the area of the struggle that policy makers have neglected since the 1960s.”
De Jong’s hope is that people will be able to read and enjoy her work while learning more about racism in America.
“I think among white Americans most people realize there’s still something wrong, but they don’t really understand why that is,” she said. “My goal in the book was to explain why and to look at the history, pinpoint laws and policies that were implemented. This is the reason the society is at where it’s at today.”
Though “Invisible Enemy” focuses on the African-American freedom struggle, de Jong also incorporates the broader concept of globalization into the final chapter. She looks at the powerful influence that the American economic model of free markets has had across the world, and shows how other countries are seeing similar negative consequences.
“That model was exported around the world, and because of American influence over international agencies many nations found themselves in the situation where they had to adopt American free market style capitalism,” de Jong said. “Those policies, in nations in Africa and Asia for example, had the same effects on poorer people [there] that they had on African-Americans here.”
“Invisible Enemy” is available in bookstores, including the ASUN Bookstore on campus.