Myrdal's Prediction



In An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, Gunnar Myrdal (1944) argued that white Americans were caught in a dilemma, torn between their commitment to noble democratic principles—what Myrdal called the American Creed—on the one side, and their belief in the superiority of the white race, on the other. Myrdal was certain that in the struggle between democratic principles and race prejudice, the former would prevail. Prejudice, Myrdal famously predicted, was about to disappear. Acknowledging the considerable progress that has taken place in American race relations over the past 60 years, we show that on this particular point Myrdal was wrong. Contrary to his prediction, prejudice has not disappeared; nor has its political significance diminished. Prejudice remains and its importance for politics depends, today as in Myrdal's time, on political circumstance: on the vicissitudes of history and the actions of leaders.