Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners

Article excerpt

The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners

Debra J. Dickerson

Anchor Books, 2004

There is something in this book for just about everyone, depending upon a reader's proclivities. Those who read it to find ammunition against whites will find it there. Those who wish to see a black author's own characterizations of what is to her the deeply flawed behavior of many other blacks will find that there, too. Those who would like to see some emphasis, at least, on the decent and responsible behavior of a large number of people in either race will be disappointed, but apparently Dickerson feels the negatives exist in such abundance that they deserve the center of attention.

Ironically, she is critical of "the hysterical black polemicist [who] is the snarling German shepherd that blacks loose on racism," but that is a description a reader can't help but feel fits Dickerson herself throughout much of the book. Looking at the world through a haughty intellectualism that gives her an Olympian perspective and allows her to apply much pop psychology, she finds fuel for dissatisfaction with almost everybody. Those who come under her scalpel include the current black leadership; the "Movement Generation"; the black "bourgeoisie"; the great bulk of black males; black women, who despite being the work horses of their race have many undesirable qualities, according to Dickerson; and whites, for their racism, "structuralized greed, entrenched privilege, and xenophobia."

There is in all of this considerable grist for thought, and for good reason: Dickerson is in a position to have much to say. She is a sharecropper's daughter who graduated from Harvard Law School, and the wife in an interracial marriage. Her style is articulate (and she takes pleasure in an occasional sally into intellectualized smut). Even though there is much to criticize her for, her negativity has a unique value in light of the circumstances in which Americans find themselves today: it brings her to say things that few others are able to say in a society stifled by political correctness (i.e., by an insistence upon ideological conformity). Slurs against whites are politically correct, so there isn't much she can dish out along those lines that hasn't already been said. But that isn't true of her criticisms of today's black population. Her observations there offer a window into a forbidden subject.

In this review, it will be valuable to examine what she has to say about whites, but most especially about blacks. Her book's content has significance for reasons Dickerson herself may not intend. If her critique is to be taken seriously, she is suggesting something quite startling and unexpected: that there is much that is problematic about the "moral high ground" that has allowed the Civil Rights Movement in the United States to sweep all before it. Those reading her observations can't help but entertain questions about the moral justification for the process of social and legal change that has held powerful sway within American society since World War II.

But first, a digression. It would be unseemly to put off until the end of the review a discussion of the message that is ostensibly Dickerson's main reason for writing. She intends a message of uplift. Instead of focusing on racial justice, she says, American blacks should focus on living, on "actualizing as individuals." There is much they can do: pursue "good citizenship," improve their neighborhoods through self-help projects, excel academically, enlist in the armed services, adopt neglected children, educate voters. To accomplish this, "black people must take the reins of their uplift in their own hands." "No longer can standards of conduct and morality be lower for blacks than for whites," she says; "crime is crime, sloth is sloth, and merit is mostly measurable." seen most broadly, they should "give the devil his due" by recognizing "the grandeur" of Western culture. …

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