This fourth book by Dyson (Between God and Gangsta Rap, 1995, etc.) is a collection of interlocking essays pondering the...

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RACE RULES: Navigating the Color Line

This fourth book by Dyson (Between God and Gangsta Rap, 1995, etc.) is a collection of interlocking essays pondering the ongoing dilemmas of race, class, and gender in the African-American community. ""Why another book on race?"" Dyson asks at the outset. He answers, ""Because we haven't learned our lessons."" The seven chapters of his latest offering trace a complex line through the race/gender/class nexus, from the O.J. Simpson trial through the Million Man March, with thoughtful considerations of the nature of black male leadership, the need for a black Christian theology of sexuality, the role of black public intellectuals, and the intergenerational split within black America. At the heart of the book is the useful distinction that Dyson charts between race as context, as subtext, and as pretext. In practical terms, most effectively in his essay on male leadership, this trilogy is expressed as the difference between Colin Powell as one whose appeal is based on transcending race, Louis Farrakhan as one who has translated race, and Jesse Jackson as a leader who has transformed race. This last model is the one that Dyson forcefully valorizes, a leadership style that acknowledges the powerful wrongs of white supremacy but seeks to make common cause with others oppressed by sexism, homophobia, class and economic divisions. Dyson is himself a Baptist minister, and he shares the traditionalist framework that unites all three of his exemplars of black male leadership, but as his powerful chapter on sexuality and the black church indicates, he is not locked into a reactionary vision of gender and sexuality. On the downside, Dyson occasionally engages in too much on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand analysis; what is clearly an honest search for the truth occasionally reads like the temporizing of a politician seeking to appease all the voters. Despite its occasional shortcomings, a thoughtful and balanced addition to a national debate all too often marked by outraged polemic.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 1996

ISBN: 0679781560

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996