The End of White World Supremacy: Black Internationalism and the Problem of the Color Line

By Fain, Cicero M. | Afro-Americans in New York Life and History, July 2012 | Go to article overview

The End of White World Supremacy: Black Internationalism and the Problem of the Color Line


Fain, Cicero M., Afro-Americans in New York Life and History


The End of White World Supremacy: Black Internationalism and the Problem of the Color Line, by Roderick D. Bush. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009. 258 pp.

Barack Obama's historic election reaffirmed the conundrum of the race in America. On the one hand, it embodied the long-sought convergence of the democratic vision articulated by intellectuals, activists, and citizens comprising the civil rights movement. Inarguably, his election shifted and edified the nature of discourse on history, democracy, race, and power in contemporary America and the international arena. Yet, overwhelmingly Blacks still see race and racism as constitutive of American society. In contrast, many saw Obama's singular achievement as an allegory for an eventual post-racial society in which Blacks are no longer considered inferior and whites are no longer racists. In effect, signaling the long-sought completion of the democratic vision of the movement.

In The End of White World Supremacy: Black Internationalism and the Problem of the Color Line, Roderick D. Bush offers a sophisticated, ambitious, and expansive rebuff to those embracing a vision of racial idealism. Revisiting and grounding his thesis in Dr. W. ?. B. Du Bois' prophetic declaration in The Souls of Black Folks that "the problem of the 20th century is the color line," Bush believes "racism is systemic" and "foundational to the modern-world system (218)" that originated with European colonial expansion and metastasized into global proportions with American and European imperialism during the 20th century. Employing multiple perspectives to examine the Black American experience and its international dimensions, Bush utilizes two differing literatures - world systems analysis and radical black social movement theory to contextualize the tradition of black activism and black radicalism used to confront the racist forces of the capitalist world economy and provide a corrective to global social injustice. In his mind, the civil rights movement encompasses a crucial ideological and political platform within a broader historical continuum in which white liberals, the working class, women, and Black Americans coalesced into an assault on white supremacy and reconfigured global power relations.

In the Black intellectual tradition, Bush utilizes a diverse and substantive evidentiary base of historical, theoretical, and secondary literature to construct an authoritative analytical foundation. By embracing a "more sophisticated use of the concept of social time (13)," and interdisciplinary theoretical foundation, Bush expands the periodization of the civil rights movement (and the actors within it) to the nineteenth century, and re-conceptualizes and broadens our understanding of the historic centrality of the civil rights movement, the Black radical tradition, and race-based social movements to the political aspirations of Black Americans and those of the African descent throughout the world. Consequently, he brings fresh perspective and vitality in his analysis of the lives, insights, and commonality of and contractions in the aspirations of Du Bois, George Padmore, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah, and a host of other Black radical intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic.

Locating them within the Black American tradition of activism, institutional development, and Pan-Africanism, Bush illuminates the criticality of Black solidarity and Black internationalism to developing greater democratization of America and the global environment and economic system. …

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