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THE END OF BLACKNESS by Debra J. Dickerson


Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners

by Debra J. Dickerson

Pub Date: Jan. 13th, 2004
ISBN: 0-375-42157-2
Publisher: Pantheon

A full-bore assault on white racism on one hand and black orthodoxies on the other, one that finds the author well-prepared for the inevitable backlash.

At which point, journalist Dickerson (An American Story, 2000) says, “the next time a ‘new Afrikan’ steps up to me at one of my readings . . . and questions my Negritude for my interracial marriage or my insufficient (to them) engagement with the black community, they better come loaded for bear.” Black America is too diverse to be stereotyped, she suggests, and far too many blacks are enjoying material and social advantages that are historically supposed to be beyond them to believe that the old laws of racism have as much force as they used to—illustrating, in one of her rare instances of cheerleading, that “no one can stop the American, black or blind, who is determined to succeed.” Which is not to say that racism is not a reality—it is, and the author offers a repellent catalogue of ongoing sins by white against black. But, she adds, blacks need to stop relying on racism as a means for explaining failure, to stop presuming that “the moral high ground [can] be bequeathed like a hereditary title or a trust fund.” Instead, Dickerson argues, the black community should look toward the future: “It is time to chart black life after the movement.” By way of example, she points to the successes of hip-hop entrepreneurs such as Russell Simmons and Chuck D, who “are exerting powerful, politicized, and well-financed leadership among their peers, all with little recourse to, or much respect for, the civil rights establishment.” One sign of that leadership, she writes, is the emergence of “hip-hop politicians” running against “movement blacks” in New York and New Jersey. Of any politician, whether old-school or new-, she counsels, the questions need be asked, “Would she know what to do with herself if white racism ended tomorrow? How invested in continued black failure has he become?”

Arguments that are crisply delivered and guaranteed to irritate vast constituencies.