Two accomplished black professionals alternate outspoken, provocative views that revolve around race relations in America.
In frank, chatty conversations, these two Ivy League–educated authors and academics, longtime friends, trade barbs and buzzwords with earnestness, ire and sarcasm. Essence contributor Daniels (Ghettonation: A Journey Into the Land of Bling and Home of the Shameless, 2007, etc.), who was a business journalist at Fortune for a decade, teaches journalism and writes openly about issues of being a mother—e.g., promoting the uncomfortable notion of teaching daughters to enjoy sex and advocating a “mothercentric” workforce as the best way to tackle discrimination and inequality in the country. Cultural anthropologist and filmmaker Jackson (Communication, Africana Studies and Anthropology/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Thin Description: Ethnography and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, 2013, etc.) often plays devil’s advocate in their exchanges. He denounces jazz as a “black, middle-class response to the threat of racial inauthenticity, a trump card rejoinder to the equally problematic assumption that urban poverty is the only thing that legitimately comprises African Americans’ social realities,” and he proposes the establishment of a National Nigger Please Service, which would charge whites to say the N-word so that they could get it off their chests while also funding anti-poverty programs. Needless to say, there is plenty of tongue-in-cheek to these deliberate provocations, as well as lots of engaging reading. Jackson’s prickly essay “I Wish I Could Be a Republican” nicely skewers what he sees as the party’s pro-white, anti-intellectual, pro-gun and anti-Obama stance, declaring that having no shame is actually “quite empowering.” The authors underscore the stubbornly deep divide between black and white, as well as America’s truculent economic inequality, despite the gains of electing the first African-American president. Daniels is especially concerned about the diminishing prospects of social mobility, while Jackson, as a social scientist, sees racial bias as the root of many cultural fault lines.
Lively discussion, occasionally sloppy prose and refreshing candor from two keen observers.