What we have to do is to provide an opportunity for every American, for black Americans, for Mexican-Americans, and others who haven’t had an equal chance, not just to be a worker … but to be a manager and an owner.

Richard Nixon1

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What is the best way to combat racial stereotyping in the media? The question was at the front of Ishmael Reed’s mind in the fall of 1974, as he prepared to address the National Conference of Afro-American Writers at Howard University. Some, he supposed, would have writers “submit their characterizations, dialogues, plots, and descriptions to a committee which would decide which ones are acceptable and which aren’t” (Shrovetide 54). But Reed was leery of programs and orthodoxies, and skeptical of any “leadership” that “tried to push” a “pet...

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