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Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners

Written by Debra J. DickersonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Debra J. Dickerson

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On Sale: December 10, 2008
Pages: 320 | ISBN: 978-0-307-48428-4
Published by : Anchor Knopf
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Debra Dickerson pulls no punches in this electrifying manifesto. Outspoken journalist and author of the critically acclaimed memoir An American Story, she challenges black Americans to stop obsessing about racism and start focusing on problems they can fix. The way out of the ghetto, she asserts, is to take a good, hard look in the mirror. Get angry, Dickerson says, but use that anger to fuel excellence and civic participation rather than crime or drug addiction. Drawing richly on black history and thought, as well as her own hard-won wisdom, she urges blacks to let go of the past and claim their full freedom. It’s only by shaping their own future, she argues, that blacks will finally abolish the myth of white superiority.

Excerpt

ONE

TAKING THE WORDS OUT OF BLACK MOUTHS:
Narcissism, Know-Nothingness, and White Intransigence

"Priscilla and I, and nine others, had been charged with
'disturbing the peace,' among other charges, because we tried
to order food at Woolworth. If not for segregation, and the
fact that we were all Negroes, we would have been served
without incident. At our trial on March 17, 1960,
Judge John Rudd ruled that our lawyers should
'get off that race question.' "
--PATRICIA STEPHENS DUE

"[I]n 1955, that's when the gruesome murder of
Emmett Till came up in Mississippi. I remember how
the Charlotte Observer, which was supposed to be a liberal
or moderate newspaper, condemned the NAACP,
saying it was just as bad as the Ku Klux Klan
in raising 'racial' issues about this murder."
--JOHN DORSEY DUE JR.

"Among the topics that the southern white man did not
like to discuss with Negroes were the following: American
white women; the Ku Klux Klan; France, and how Negro
soldiers fared while there; French women; Jack Johnson;
the entire northern part of the United States; the civil war;
Abraham Lincoln; U.S. Grant; General Sherman; Catholics;
the Pope; Jews; the Republican Party; Slavery, Social
Equality, Communism; Socialism; the 13th, 14th,
and 15th Amendments to the Constitution; or any
topic calling for positive knowledge or manly
self-assertion on the part of the Negro."
--RICHARD WRIGHT

"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence;
then success is sure."
--MARK TWAIN



Black people are not crazy. They're not paranoid. They're punch-drunk, or as Carter G. Woodson put it, "the Negro's mind has been brought under the control of his oppressor. The problem of holding the Negro down, therefore, is easily solved. When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions."

White racism and white supremacist ideology, however denied, however subconscious, continue to exist. To believe otherwise, one would truly have to believe that blacks are genetically and morally deficient. Of course some believe exactly that, but the rest of America understands that the disproportionately lower status of blacks is at least in some measure a result of group interactions. Blacks are neither blameless nor helpless, but they are certainly not operating in a societal vacuum. Still, blacks can be complicit in maintaining white supremacy by playing the game on the master's terms--that is, by vying for white approval or a white apology rather than for their own autonomy, by giving in to nihilism and immorality in the face of the endless struggle to surmount inequality. "Careless ignorance and laziness here, fierce hate and vindictiveness there; these are the extremes of the Negro problem which we met [while doing sociological research] that day," said W.E.B. DuBois, "and we scarce knew which we preferred." Surely blacks reject both propositions, even knowing that white racism still exists and that, like all self-serving rationalizations, it has adapted to fit the times.

Having collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions, an articulated white supremacy--whites-only signs, restrictive covenants, overt police brutality--is no more. But structuralized greed, entrenched privilege, and xenophobia, on the other hand, are alive, well, and mutating athletically to retard each new inroad that blacks make into skin or class privilege. If you can't keep something but you can't give it up, you have to render it unrecognizable; racism has been defined out of existence and repackaged so that whites could retain its perks, especially the psychological ones. It has undergone existential plastic surgery. To keep it buried alive in its unholy grave, a host of Strangelovean anti-intellectualisms have been developed and honed.

For some whites, racism means nothing less than police attack dogs, George Wallace standing in the school-house door, and gentle seamstresses being carted off to jail for sitting in the front of the bus. Racism, thus, is now history. All that is left are isolated acts of individual bigotry, which probably, albeit regrettably, can be explained by some past run-in with black pathology.

For some blacks, racism means a societal infrastructure organized and operated so as to distribute benefits, burdens, and resources according to a racial hierarchy, however unspoken. The education and criminal justice systems are the most obvious examples.

Modern white racism insists that the races remain separate, even if only psychologically, so that whites get to think of themselves as "America," as better, as the judge of every other race, and that whites get to remain on top. As Albert Murray noted, whites do not take their privilege for granted--they work at it. "They leave little to nature and what they inherit is the full-time obligation to keep up social appearances without ever seeming to do so." Being the master race is a full-time job.

Regardless of the civic havoc that white racism wreaks, it is important for blacks to remind themselves that whites are no more innately evil than others. History has simply situated them to dominate in this era. Greed and power imbalances are at the root of the problem; racism is merely a by-product, but such a virulent one as to eclipse its progenitors. Given the success of the civil rights movement, however, these sociopathologies need be dispositive of nothing. Still, it is important for blacks to monitor the forms that white supremacy takes, even though it no longer dare speak its name. On a practical note, this is also a useful way for cowed blacks to demystify the all-mighty Caucasian, because there is nothing to be proud of in the current form to which white racism and denial, crazily clutching their pile of perks with ever more wizened fingers, has been reduced to sustain itself.

Second, it must be said that black racism, while largely masturbatory because largely powerless, is equally ignoble, sinful, and simian. There is little doubt that blacks would behave as badly as whites if they were the ones on top. We know this because of how badly blacks have treated one another. Rapidly falling under whites' racist sway, from nearly the beginning of their time in America, they practiced the same racism among themselves that they decried in whites. American-born slaves derided the Africa-born, while light-skinned and house slaves despised the dark field hands. Some free mulattoes distanced themselves politically as far as possible from slaves and even opposed their enfranchisement. Immediately after Emancipation, Brahmin blacks apishly erected a social structure patterned on that of whites, especially their disgust for low-class blacks. When southern blacks arrived up north during the Great Migration, their contemptuous brothers called them "Cornbread," wouldn't let them join their churches, and thought the problem of racism was whites' refusal to differentiate them from "the niggers." Now it is the ghetto blacks who are despised.

Franz Fanon aptly defined the "native" as "an oppressed person whose permanent dream is to become the persecutor." We may say the same about "the African American." Even more relevantly, Fanon defined a "settler," in his 1950s colonial context, as "an exhibitionist" who "pits brute force against the weight of numbers." We may say the same about "the unreconstructed white." Far too little thought has been given to an examination of the exhibitionism attendant upon white predation. It is best described as narcissistic know-nothingness.


NARCISSISM

What is racism but a fascination with oneself?

Why, a seventeenth-century European newly arrived in Africa must have mused, are these odd creatures not pale, not straight-haired, not freckled, not wearing filthy pantaloons, and not praying to two pieces of wood nailed at a right angle? Why are they so unlike me? What's the matter with them? Whites couldn't have been white until they saw someone who wasn't.

Fundamentally, racism and xenophobia are more about self-exaltation than about exploiting others, more about filling the human need to feel special, set apart, and touched by grace, than about hatred. A sixteenth-century European genius perfectly illustrates this need and the ripple effects that ethnocentrism can set in motion across the centuries. Gerardus Mercator solved an age-old navigational problem by devising the map that every schoolchild has grown up with for nearly five centuries. The trouble is, partly for practical reasons but mostly for reasons of cultural narcissism, he built huge distortions into "the world." To better showcase his native Flanders and Europe generally, Mercator inflated and situated the northern hemisphere so as to dominate the map. Africa is dwarfed by Greenland, though it is twelve times larger. South America was pygmyized. Those smart enough to figure out the world were arrogant enough to try to make it over in their own image.

But has there ever been a society that didn't think itself naturally superior to every other? Anthropologist Earl Shorris explains:

"Ethnocentrism was not . . . a European invention. Most of the cultures native to the Americas named themselves "the People," as if no others could even be described as human beings. The practice was not limited to any language group. . . . We know [Native American tribes] . . . by the names given them by their adversaries. The Lakotas, Dakotas, and Nakotas are known to us as "Sioux," . . . it means "snake" or "enemy." Similarly, the word "Apache" . . . meant "enemy," while the word the Apaches . . . used for themselves, "Diné," means "the People." [Just as whites had no respect for the native American cultures they encountered, the natives had no regard for whites' culture.] . . . [They] thought of the invaders as avaricious individualists who smelled bad; the word for a white in the Lakota language, for example, means greedy (literally, he-who-eats-the-fat)."

Early blacks also thought whites suffered from delusions of grandeur and a preening self-importance. The cakewalk, a dance performed while goose-stepping with arms stiffly outstretched and parading as if observed by adoring millions, was created by Reconstruction-era blacks to send up white ostentation and pretension. Olaudah Equiano, in recounting his capture in Africa and arrival in Barbados, wrote, "We thought . . . we should be eaten by these ugly men." Every group thinks itself exalted and all others debased. China considered itself the "Middle Kingdom" between heaven and earth. An American journalist visiting Japan noted,

"Whenever there are warning signs or warning ads in Japan, they always show white people doing whatever stupid activity is being warned about. At the Ueno Zoo, the pictures showing a child crawling into the lion's den shows a Caucasian. Dozens of Japanese kids have died because their moms left them in hot cars when they went to play pachinko. So the pachinko industry launched a huge ad campaign to remind parents not to leave their kids in the car. But all the ads show Caucasian kids! There probably are not 10 Caucasians who have ever played pachinko!"

Unfortunately, the mix of narcissism, technological superiority, and greed spelled doom for that race most unlike, "most inferior to," whites. Centuries later, having refined their narcissism into high art, whites have learned to place themselves, however irrelevantly and distractingly, at the center of any discussion. They anoint themselves not simple citizens but judge and jury.

When confronted with a demand for redress or for a justice-based redirection of societal resources, whites invoke the royal prerogative of their race and change the subject. Like the Old West stagecoach robbers who flipped the road signs to point their victims into the wilderness to be fleeced, whites divert black complaint to the question of whether white approval of the complaint itself will be bestowed. Needless to say, if the complaint doesn't involve German shepherds or fire hoses, if the complainant isn't a saint, racism is unlikely to be considered the culprit. Most maddeningly for blacks, whites refuse to consider complaints on their merits but instead issue their opinion of a complaint, so that it can be dismissed unexamined.

Thus, black complaint becomes a subject-changing round robin of white criticism of blacks. In the 1930s Woodson noted that "few whites of today will listen to the [Negro's] tale of woe." Imagine, then, how little patience whites in the twenty-first century have for black complaint. That impatience is frequently demonstrated. When blacks make demands after police kill unarmed civilians, whites respond by demanding to know what blacks have done to improve themselves.

Note the assumption that whites need no improvement and that they get to judge blacks' civic fitness to be allowed to complain. Second, arguendo, let us posit that blacks have done nothing toward self-improvement; is indolence then a police license to kill? This implies that while blacks are societally abused, until they surmount the Everest of white approval, their abuse will justifiably, if regrettably, continue. How else will blacks ever learn?

Blacks claim that their schools remain segregated and underfunded, leading to decreased educational opportunity, and they demand educational affirmative action. The white response: Why do all the black kids sit together in the cafeteria?

This question is really a denunciation of blacks as unworthy of societal effort, of blacks as the "real" racists. Access to the good things in life is wasted on them. Whites never notice the all-white tables that usually outnumber the all-black ones, because white behavior is beyond minority critique (and because, when it's them, the silliness of this "critique" is apparent). Black comment on white behavior is still uppity, but that these days uppityness will find blacks only dismissed rather than hanged is undeniable progress.

The velvet rope of white privilege dangling before their eyes fascinates too many post-movement bourgeois blacks; instead of finishing their rhetorical meal at the table of their choice, they make a mental shuffle off to the margin, where they dance for white approval and cringe whenever a black commits a crime or loses a job. No better are the bitter bullhorn blacks who fume and mutter from their assigned spot on the sidelines, the spot from which they can most closely monitor whites who preen in this way. Note that neither the bourgeois nor the bullhorn Negro is about his own business but is catering to any random white who cares to opine on that which doesn't concern him.

This is what Albert Murray would deem the white norm/black deviation dialectic, the main vehicle for white supremacy. Counterintuitively, white supremacists and black polemicists work together to implement this strategy, though we are most concerned with the black leaders who succumb to this gambit. The problem is both parties' adherence to the literalist, white supremacist notion that all that is necessary for the construction of social policy is a direct comparison of black social measures, like illegitimacy or crime, with those of whites. Odd bedfellows indeed, these seeming enemies hope for the same outcome--a showing of black "pathology," that is, worse statistics for blacks than for whites. For whites, with their behavior enshrined as the norm, insofar as blacks fail to meet "the standard," their problems are their own fault rather than the result of racism. From the point of view of the wailing-wall polemicists, any black lag is to be celebrated because it must result from racism. The worse blacks do, the better they both like it. The focus, Murray says,
"is never placed on the failure of white Americans to measure up to the standards of the Constitution. The primary attention repeatedly is focused on Negroes as victims. . . . [T]he assumption . . . is that slavery and oppression have made Negroes inferior to other Americans and hence less American. . . . [H]owever, slavery and oppression may well have made black people more human and more American while it has made white people less human and less American."
Debra J. Dickerson|Author Q&A

About Debra J. Dickerson

Debra J. Dickerson - The End of Blackness
Debra J. Dickerson was educated at the University of Maryland, St. Mary’s University, and Harvard Law School. She has been both a senior editor and a contributing editor at U.S. News & World Report, and her work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the New Republic, Slate, the Village Voice, and Essence. She is the author of The End of Blackness and An American Story. She lives in Albany, New York.

Author Q&A

Q&A with Debra Dickerson
Author of THE END OF BLACKNESS

Why did you write the THE END OF BLACKNESS?
One simple reason: I am sick and tired, physically sick and tired, of being spoken for by what passes for leadership in the black community. Mostly, I refer to local ‘leaders’ more so than those at the state or national level (though most of them annoy me, too. It’s just that, to maintain their positions, they have to be more judicious in their pointlessness). If I hear one more underemployed, overeducated child of the over-entitled black bourgeoisie spend 70% of his speech on white people and what they need to do or stop doing, and the other 30% denouncing any black who dares disagree with the party line, when his speech is entitled “Restoring the Black Family” or some such, I’m going to lose it. Rolling my eyes and sighing dramatically just isn’t doing it for me anymore. Ditto the kente-cloth-ed ‘New Afrikan’ and his demands that half the continental US landmass be given to blacks as the New Motherland.

Someone should tell those folks that there was a Civil Rights Movement and that it worked. There was a time when black uplift was impossible without white involvement, but that time has long passed. It simply no longer matters whether or not whites hate blacks. It only matters whether blacks are determined to achieve their goals or whether they are determined to prove how racist some whites are. We’re free. Not home free. Just free. Free to work our bums off for the dream for which so many gave their lives. Only public humiliation will make these malcontents either hush up or grow up, because attention is all that really motivates them. That, and a terrible secret: they believe the lie that blacks really are stupid, ugly, incompetent and deserving of abuse. That’s why racism must be endlessly hunted for so that these kinds of blacks can explain away black problems. The other option, of course, is to hunt down black problems and, like, fix them. The End of Blackness is my vote for Plan B.

That title, THE END OF BLACKNESS, is really provocative. What do you mean by it?
When I told my sister the title, she said with mock alarm, “How long do I have?” What I mean is that for four centuries, ‘black,’ the lowest caste, has only really meant the opposite of ‘white,’ the highest caste, with all the political, cultural, aesthetic, psychological, and financial overtones that implies. It serves no purpose beyond maintaining hierarchies of privilege (with whites at the top) and shoring up the status quo. It most benefits whites yet it is blacks who are most determined to hold on to a tautology they have morally, intellectually and culturally demolished beyond all repair – why else demand that Tiger Woods consider himself ‘black’ or think of Bill Clinton as the first ‘black President’? Mind you, we’ll still be black. Maybe we’ll always be black. We just need to redefine what ‘black’ means. ‘Black’ should only mean those descended from African slaves brought involuntarily to labor in the USA. Everything beyond that is up for grabs. It doesn’t mean Democrat. It doesn’t mean protestant Christian. It doesn’t mean caring about civil rights. It certainly does not follow from the discovery of a scintilla of dusty African DNA in your gene pool. It also does not mean, as it does now, that our moral failings cannot be address until all of whites’ have been admitted to and redressed. It means what any individual black person says it means. You’re black if you say you are and not if you say you’re not, whatever you look like, wherever you live, whatever your mother, or a traffic cop, thinks. Redefining blackness obviously doesn’t mean the world will treat you in accordance with your preferences. It just means that you will not be told by anyone who you are, what you think, how to organize your life. On both the individual and collective levels, we have to stop living our lives and building our personas with whites in the equation. Remember, it’s the content of our character, not the color of our skin. A lot of air will be let out of the balloon of racism the moment blacks stop paying attention to it and focus on their own internalities.

Why do you include so many quotes from thinkers like Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, E. Franklin Frazier, James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison?
The more disillusioned I became with this current crop of post-Movement leaders, the more I despaired that all we’d ever had in our moral and intellectual kit bag was gospel songs and bewailings of white racism. Who are we apart from our history of oppression? Are white folks all we’d ever thought, sang, or prayed about? If the answers are ‘no one’ and ‘yes,’ then weren’t the racists right that we added nothing to the world, that we truly were a useless race? I decided to read our foundational thinkers just to see what was behind those Chicken McNugget-ized bromides from Black History Month. Having done so, I felt so robbed. We have been lied to about our true heritage, and not by The Man. All those people we invoke so sonorously every February were offering intracommunal critiques, not analyses of what exactly was wrong with white people and how good life would be for us once the white man changed. I was also struck by how unreactionary they were and bowled over by how much they truly loved and respected black people, not that they ever put it that way. They assumed black leadership and excellence and just plain wonderfulness. When you listen to our current leaders, you realize they don’t assume these things because it’s all about how white people have to stop doing what they’re doing for us to get ahead. Woodson actually commended whites for taking such good care of themselves and exhorted us to get similarly busy. He ordered us to get even, by competing and winning, not by wailing so loud no one else could get anything else done. Pre-Civil Rights Act, pre-Rosa Parks, pre-Freedom Rides and pre-Tiger Woods, he assumed we’d win as soon as we stopped trying to make folks love us. Reading all these thinkers, I realized we’d been bamboozled, but not in the way we thought. Our black leaders today think we’re losers. They really do. That, as long as white racism exists, blacks will always be on the bottom of the pile. That’s not what the son of slaves, Woodson, thought and I want my people to know that. We used to believe in ourselves, not the unstoppable evil of whites. Now, blacks are the white supremacists.
Given that most folks aren’t nerds like me who like hundred year old books, I decided to salt the End of Blackness with as much of that knowledge as possible. I have never been so proud to be black in my life as while reading the incredible wisdom and transracial humanity of which black men facing the distinct threat of public lynching were capable. I developed a distinct crush on Douglass (circa the 1850’s) and Woodson (circa the 1930’s), in particular. These are men so ahead of their times as to be mind boggling. They thought ‘race’ was silly, whether coming from ‘us’ or from ‘them’. It annoyed and bored them. These are elders blacks really need to get to know.

You also use a lot of pop-culture references. Why?
I’m a nerd. Most other folks aren’t. I think lots of folks will either skim or skip the archaic language of our geniuses, knife in my heart though that is, but might be enticed to read a download from Africana.com or a quote from Vibe magazine. Knowledge isn’t relegated to dusty books which is why I read compulsively. I see so much that’s important in our culture reflected in odd places, like sitcoms and Top 10 lists, that I just couldn’t resist making the connections. Hopefully, I was able to illuminate the weird interstices of pop culture, literature, history and politics that define all our lives. What we say we think about our world and each other is not always, or even often, what we actually think. When we’re being less serious, as in mass market movies, we let all sorts of interesting things slip out. I see pop culture as the way America talks in its sleep.

What do you expect the response to be?
Shock. From whites and blacks (there being no other races), liberals and conservatives, young and old. My analysis is not unique or even that new (just chat with any black person 35 years old or younger), but it has yet to bubble up beyond the political and hip hop margins with much force yet. The preview audiences I’ve spoken to certainly seemed shocked in that positive way for which we writers pray. I drool over the prospect of lots of energized young blacks sidling up to me and exhaling because, finally, someone’s saying what they’ve been thinking but thought they couldn’t say without bringing about the re-enslavement of their people. As news of the book dribbles out (mostly through my eponymous website) that’s happening more and more. Hooray! Of course, from the other side, I expect to be fitted for a lynch rope. The reactionary, groupthink black wing of the community says it considers people like me a danger to the community. What they mean is that no one is allowed to disagree with them or, more importantly, fail to participate in the cartel that controls invitations, speaking opportunities and networking in the grievance industry. It’s about money and power, basically. I’m not playing the game and I’m endangering their hold on power and access to microphones and do-nothing jobs. Oh, there’ll be vocal denunciations of me. Very few debates, but lots o’ insults. I look forward to brawling with them, so they can bring it on. I got some Douglass and some Al Murray for them to contend with so I’m not too worried about Derrida and Foucault.

Who do you suspect your audience will be?
This book will be funny in this regard and I must say I’m looking forward to hearing people justify why my analysis of white political dysfunction is brilliant while mine of blacks’ is demented and vice versa. Can’t wait. I hope The End of Blackness will find its way to the open minded, future-focused black leaders in the next generation. It’s a new era: how are they supposed to know when to be black, when to be Americans, when to be fiscal conservatives, when to subsidize a group or program, when to be pacifists and when to fight? Do we even need a politics of blackness anymore? Our leaders need guiding principles for a new day but which remain true to blacks’ core principles without reference to the preferences or behavior of outsiders. The Movement models should be studied and revered, but not necessarily emulated. Different strategies are required today (otherwise, aren’t we really saying that the martyrs accomplished nothing?). I want them to have a reference tool to combat the foolishness both from within and from without our community. I want them to have some guidance, gleaned from our own sages, on how to conduct themselves and how to know to know what’s best for our people, our country, our world because I submit that nothing can be truly good for any of those entities without being good for all of them, so often, there’s no need to be ‘black’. Not if we believe in the transcendent principles we claim to. I know I’m not alone and I want to help those who agree with me find their voices and the courage it takes to stand up to both the conventional wisdom and to deal with only that racism which presents an actual, tangible problem. Let whites take responsibility for their own hearts and minds as long as it doesn’t affect blacks’ actual lives. Ignore the polls, deal with concrete problems concretely. If there isn’t a discrete measure to be taken (like firing someone or finding a way to fund more day care centers, for example) it’s really not a black problem though blacks might prefer a different outcome and though it may well be a black mark on some white person’s soul.

I hope it’s read by that majority of Americans of all races who are decent people and know that neither the NAACP or the RNC, the LADP or the ACLU has it quite right. I suspect, however, that one member of what I call the Black Politburo will skim the book, then use the jungle drums to spread the word as to which pro forma, preformatted, by-the-numbers denunciation of me to start spewing on their McCarthyite listservs, obscure conferences, and foaming-at-the-mouth talk radio shows. Can’t wait to see whether they pronounce me more self-hating, insane, or money hungry. All three probably, those being the only reasons any black person would ever think differently from them.

What is the one thing you hope people take from THE END OF BLACKNESS?
I know that America will tick me off by ‘hearing’ what I’m saying incorrectly. I am not saying that black people bring all their problems on themselves by expecting handouts or by blaming others for their problems or that whole run of nonsense. I know I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to get right wingers to stop patting me on the hand for supposedly thinking that. Here’s what I am saying: however blacks got to this point in history, whoever’s fault it is (read: whites’), the only way out and up is by ‘divorcing’ both the past and whites, qua whites, and starting all over again psychologically. We have to take responsibility for our actions, not monitor whites’, and decide that it’s time we actually began acting like we really were free, autonomous, moral and rational human beings rather than the group constantly protecting itself from a rapacious oppressor.

Praise

Praise

: “A dazzling diatribe. . . . [Dickerson] has distilled a lifetime’s worth of eye-opening realizations into a furious, bitterly funny indictment. . . . This book . . .makes her a star.” —The New York Times

“It’s impossible to label Dickerson. The message isn’t conservative or neo-con, not radical nor middle of the road but politically provocative. . . . Dickerson’s book is a hot poker, aimed at shaking up assumptions on all sides.” —Los Angeles Times

“A brave, original, and angry book.” —The Boston Globe

“Dickerson offers a bracing polemic. . . . The brutal honesty of The End of Blackness makes it . . . essential.” —New York Post

“The headlong momentum of her argument, propelled by anecdotes, quotes, homilies, one-liners and blogs, jumps and hums with a vitality reminiscent of high-end pop music, good chase movies or contact-sports television.” —The Nation

"Stimulating. . . . Provocative. . . . Loaded with wish-I'd-said-that one-liners. . . . Dickerson has a way with words and a timely message. . . . When she says it's time for black America to get off its duff, she's not asking anyone to do something she wouldn't do--and hasn't done--herself." --Chicago Tribune

"Blunt and bracing. . . . The End of Blackness is a solidly researched account of the evolution of black identity in America (her 'prologue' is about as concise and direct an account of slavery and its long-standing effects as you are likely to find). . . . Dickerson’s is a message for all Americans, not only those who are confused about how to think about race." --Mother Jones

"Fascinating. . . . A call to arms. . . . Dickerson knows how to throw a literary punch." --Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"[Dickerson is] a thinker who suffers no fools of either the liberal or the conservative stripe. . . . Revive[s] a tradition of clear-eyed, accessible writing about black political destiny in the vein of W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, and Frederick Douglass." --The Atlantic Monthly

"A brave, original, and angry book. . . . I find much to agree with. . . . We Americans need to get out of the 'race' routine, and black folk must lead the way. . . . The end of blackness . . . is worth striving for." --Glenn C. Loury, The Boston Herald

"Compelling. . . . Exhibits a praiseworthy independence of mind, questioning everyone from the 'Black Politboro'--the civil rights establishment, which sets the tone of black politics--to white apologists who still downplay the ravages of slavery. . . . A stirring endorsement of a new marriage of responsible civic individualism and dedication to the collective good." --The Washington Post

"[An] important and powerful book. . . . With deft, precise and often humorous language, Dickerson takes equal aims at both whites and blacks who would deny the diversity of opinion among blacks and dictate how they should think." --San Antonio Express-News

"Illuminating. . . . Throw[s] the entire damn dictionary of race out the window. . . . Dickerson journeys into interesting, and gutsy, terrain." --The Washington Monthly

"Dickerson has a great deal to offer about the perplexing constraints of race, and in this exhaustive collection of essays on the subject she doesn’t merely say it: She rants, raves, vents, exposes, attacks, questions, ponders, pontificates and theorizes. . . . She’s dead on." --Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

"[Dickerson] is emerging as one of this country’s leading authors on race. . . . The End of Blackness explains how racism laid and continues to maintain the groundwork that makes escape so difficult." --The News & Observer (Raleigh)

"Incendiary. . . . [Dickerson throws] a heavy and sharp-knuckled gauntlet." --Newsday

"Dickerson is . . . courageous, smart and well-informed. She has a wonderfully sharp sense of humor. . . . [The End of Blackness] serves as a fitting tribute to the achievement of Dickerson's heroes, among them Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison and especially Carter G. Woodson." --The Washington Times

"Bold and appropriately documented. . . . Dickerson writes with sincere concern for the plight of African-Americans. The End of Blackness is not an attack. It is a plea for blacks to look inward." --St. Petersburg Times


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