A series of forceful, justifiably angry essays connected by the theme of white supremacy negating the full citizenship of black Americans.
In his latest, ESPN The Magazine senior writer Bryant (The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism, 2018, etc.), who is also a correspondent for NPR’s Weekend Edition, argues that no matter how faithfully black Americans observe the rules established by privileged whites, they—plus other people of color—will never be fully accepted in any part of American society. Perhaps the most apt brief phrase to summarize the author’s admirably detailed analysis is “white racial aggression.” Because much of Bryant’s recent journalism has been published by ESPN, he regularly refers to famous athletes such as LeBron James, Tiger Woods, and Colin Kaepernick to illustrate sweeping cultural phenomena that involve skin color. Bryant’s bitterness—like that of so many Americans of all races—ratcheted up after the hint of a post-racial society following the election of Barack Obama morphed into the hate-filled presidency of Donald Trump. The author cannot accept any statement that racism has demonstrably decreased compared to some indefinite past era. The only other option presented to him, he writes, is to “get over it,” which he finds both condescending and impossible when that admonition ignores “what it means to be part of a lost tribe.” One of the most thought-provoking—and freshly argued—essays centers on how whites who violate society’s norms regularly achieve rehabilitation while blacks rarely do. He constructs that essay around the reputational rehabilitation of ice skater Tonya Harding despite her assault on Nancy Kerrigan. Ultimately, Bryant believes that what many white Americans want is “the day when black people will finally stop talking about race, which will also mean the arrival of the day when white people can stop listening to it.”
Another illuminating social and cultural critique from an important contemporary voice.