THE END OF BLACKNESS by Debra J. Dickerson (Pantheon Books), 306 pages, $36 cloth. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Black history month is on the horizon, and if you asked Debra J. Dickerson, author of The End Of Blackness, she'd say the official marking of black history is a cheap way of appeasing black people. The struggle for civil rights in America is over, but in its wake much of black America still harbours the spirit of the struggle.
Dickerson argues that the fact that some blacks feel they're still owed their due recompense by America for a history of oppression and slavery is the last thing holding the race to the bottom of the social totem pole.
Blacks, she says, should stop whining and quietly claim the rights that Martin and Malcolm died fighting for.
Of course, it's not nearly as simple as that. The black race does not share one monolithic voice or attitude regarding its place in relation to white America. Dickerson traces the lineages of these differing points of view, from those expressing horror at slavery to the "politically correct" take on blacks encoded in today's media, which subconsciously prizes Tiger Woods and Condoleeza Rice for their accomplishments mostly in relation to their race.
The End Of Blackness addresses the current black position with acuity, watertight reasoning and unexpected dabs of humour. Neither whites nor blacks are let off the hook.
The problem is that The End Of Blackness thinks it can steer the entire future of the black race in under 300 pages (acknowledgements excluded). Race relations, class divisions, the Civil War, Jim Crow, segregation, Afrocentricity, the bourgeoisie, the ghetto - the subject matter is too broad and complex and Dickerson's thesis too ambitious to convey in a standard-length book format.
Despite the author's comprehensive supply of cited resources, the book does not read exactly like the official manifesto for a new black direction it hopes to be.
Yet The End Of Blackness is fascinating, fiercely written and completely necessary.
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