What Black People Should Do Now

Article excerpt

Crisis Forum

books

THE RECKONING: What Blacks Owe Each Other

By Randall Robinson

(Dutton, $24.95)

"We've gone far enough into this morass of fear, war, hate, lying and crime. We face a crisis and our first duty is here and now...."

-W.E.B. Du Bois, "Let's Restore Democracy to America," National Guardian, January 2, 1956.

If the "echoing demands" of African Americans embody the conscience of this democracy, as Martin Luther King Jr. asserted in his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, then Randall Robinson is one of our intellectual oracles. His voice "crying in the wilderness" of American corruption and decay recalls a hallowed lineage of criticism ranging from Frederick Douglass to Public Enemy. It is a castigating magma of unrelenting ire that has erupted from the fault lines of Black American disenfranchisement ever since we struggled enchained at Goree Island. It gleams through the fissures of degradation, pressing our republic to correct its course and reaffirm its commitment to democracy. Criticism may well be the African American's manifest destiny in this society, and Robinson has held the standard high.

Best known as the founder of TransAfrica Forum, the spearhead of the anti-apartheid movement and the champion of Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide, most of Robinson's career was spent fighting for causes outside the United States. Recently, however, he has stepped down as president of the Forum (he will continue to serve on TransAfrica's board) and apparently begun to train his sights on domestic matters. He penned an articulate argument for reparations entitled The Debt, which became a national bestseller. And in many ways, The Reckoning could be considered a yin-yang complement to The Debt. Whereas one represents what a nation owes its oppressed, the other explores how the oppressed participate in their subjugation. And Robinson's answer would be through ignorance, separation and silence.

The vehicle Robinson chooses may seem foreign to those accustomed to the embroidered elegance of his arguments in The Debt. It seems the success of his last book has given him courage to expand into untried territory - the world of nonfiction narrative. The switch is at times cumbersome, as Robinson himself admits, but its awkwardness evokes the groping blindness with which he approaches this subject matter. The Reckoning is as much Robinson's introspective self-criticism as it is a challenge to the Black community. …

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