Books by Arthur Flowers
De Mojo Blues
/ Another Good Loving Blues
* * * *
The Confessions of a 21st-Century Conjureman
By Arthur Flowers
Rising: 5th Movement: MAY THERE ALWAYS BE STRUGGLE
what love, cooperation and unity are in a society, a
comforter - Im a comforter for my people, so I have
great dominion and power, glory and authority, but I use
my discretion, and my people love I, because I heal
I AM FLOWERS OF THE DELTA
CLAN FLOWERS AND THE LINE OF O KILLENS.
A Babagriot of the
Hoodoo Way. A Lord of the Delta. Mojo Rising is a Text:
An Invocation to Struggle. For These are Trying Times.
You could not have
told those of us who lived through the bright heady days of the
60s and 70s that the Promised Land was not in sight. It was
inconceivable then that we would ever again be a weak people.
But here we are at the turn of the century and you feel
sometimes like it was never this bad. It is only when you remind
yourself of just how far we've come that you regain perspective.
We've climbed some difficult mountains, you and I.
apparently there is no Promised Land, apparently there is only
struggle. We have come to understand as did the Angolans when
they won their colonial war, A Luta Continua - The
Struggle Continues. The Struggle. The Almighty Struggle. The
ongoing struggle for survival and empowerment that has been
waged by the black people of the Americas and the World. It has
spanned continents, cultures and centuries. It evolves according
to our concrete conditions and the successes and failures of
preceding phases. It is the Struggle that shapes us as a people,
it is the Struggle we must shape.
But the Movement
looking kinda shaky these days. Folks giving up, going for self.
You look at the condition of blackfolk today and its hard not to
despair. Black families in danger, black communities falling
apart. AIDS. A Rightwing Ascendancy killing off the Great
Society and breeding Patriot Acts I & II. A movement
hijacked by mercenary compradors and rabid fundamentalists. A
shift in focus from external to internal dynamics that has made
for infinitely more nuanced struggle (the honest have to
acknowledge, we have been our own worst enemy) and not only are
blackfolk drifting but black solidarity is considered quaint
these days. These are singularly hardtimes.
But we have known
hardtimes before. Our problems have always been insurmountable —
peonage. Urban sojourners. —
Our struggle has
always been epic and we have always overcome. But first there
must be vision. I ask what is the longgame. Just what kind of
people do we want to be.
When moving a
people you must think in generations or strategies are
ineffective, frustration and burnout certain. I have become
comfortable with the glacial pace of social and cultural change.
Phases of struggle come and go. You win some you lose some, you
keep on struggling. It is Demoja. The eternal and protracted
mobilization of an entire constituency. Built for the longhaul.
THE 21st CENTURY
Most black activists are hopelessly out of date and tending to
utopian and apocalyptic scenarios, blundering blindly about the
board and fighting tomorrows wars with 60s strategies. Wars and
conflicts are not won by the biggest and the strongest but by
the ones who are using innovative tactics while their opponents
still fighting last years battles. Just what constitutes
effective mobilization of the black community in the 21st
Century. Folks still thinking of mobilization 60s style, antiwar
marches, online petitions, teachins and so on, the makedo
strategies of the weak and powerless, but innovative infoworld
based approaches (such as the Black Radical Congress'
underutilized cyberorganizing initiative) possibly more
appropriate to the historical moment.
It would be nice
would it not to forge a people who are capable of systematically
responding to changes in the political/social environment in
both a timely and effective manner. Cultures that are incapable
of adjusting rapidly to cultural challenges are problematic.
Say for instance
AIDS: Once it was realized that AIDS had a special affinity for
the souls of blackfolk, there should have been a way to
communicate that to our people with the kind of cultural
authority that would enable timely adaptation to a cultural
that would identify and finesse cultural crises in their
infancy. Immediate AIDS shortgame should have been to identify
the cause and change community behavior accordingly and
immediately. In this case —
education, monogamous commitment, safesex, drug outreach,
pharmaceutical research&pricing policies, etc.
But shortgame is
just defense. The corresponding longgame should be designed to
harness the karmic power generated by a cultural crises of this
magnitude to make health of primal importance in our culture.
Once again we see the penalty of bad health. Both in the States
and around the world blacks are sicker than other folk —
we die earlier, we suffer longer, we have paid in stunted lives
and stunted generations. We desperately need to use this
cultural hammer to make nutrition, health, sanitation and
healthcare a cultural imperative.
Instead we respond
with our usual repertoire, the strategies of the weak. Proud
ignorance. Conspiracy! The whitefolks did it! Please. We aint
got time for all that. AIDS has ravaged blackfolk throughout the
Americas and Africa has damn near lost a generation. It is
incumbent upon us to use the cosmic karma generated by a crises
of this magnitude to make health an ongoing concern. Exercise,
nutrition, lifestyle and compassionate healthcare policies are a
must. The (v)ital lifestyle must become second nature to us. A
cultural trait. Then we will have transformed adversity into
strength. Worked the counterspell and shaped the generations.
Otherwise its just a tragedy.
election of 2004. It must be fought with everything we can
muster. Another 4 years of Bush the Naked Emperor and his merry
band of fundamentalists is more than I care to endure. But it's
the Rightwing Ascendancy that must be finessed and
counterfeited. To be truly effective our 2004 election
strategies must be designed both to defeat Bush and to
delegitimize the Right, empower progressive forces/impulses in
American culture and program us as more effective policy players
must be designed to train us into the kind of people we want
most to be. It is the essence of conjuration. Conduct yourself
as you aspire to be and you shall. Longgame empowerment
strategies are a must in the 21st century for the competition
has gotten more sophisticated and so must we. The most effective
mobilization of the moment has been that of the Rightwing
Ascendancy (and if you don't think they trying to fundamentally
change civilization as we know it you haven't been paying
attention) which learned new infobased techniques of
manipulating public opinion and mobilizing their forces. It is
already Oldthought. Our advocacy organizations havent even
mastered that model much less created any effectively innovative
What do I get
instead. What is the agreed upon 21st Century empowerment
strategy for Black America. Reparations. (What is it about black
people and begging.) I hate to be the one break it to you
blackpeople but Reparations don't get it.
A good empowerment
strategy should train us as a people in the skills that we need
to survive and prosper in the 21st Century. What do Reparations
train us to be. Better beggars. Pleasepleasemrwhitefolk,
pleasepleasemakeuswhole. I thought we dumped waiting for
whitefolk to save us round about 1975. How did we get back to
this as primary strategy. What a revolting development this is.
Weve raised begging whitefolk into highart and given it
revolutionary sanction. Bottomline: will winning Reparations
make us a stronger people. No it wont. It's a diversion of
critical energies and it will not change the concrete condition
of blackfolk no more than getting one of George Bushs taxcut
checks. Is this the best we can come up with for the 21st
Century. Is this the best post-Most Favorite Minority
strategy we can come up with. Give me a break blackpeople, we
can do better than this. Work with me.
Empowerment is what
we looking for. Empowerment. This is a concept flexible enough
to cover a wide range of tactical and strategic initiatives.
Whatever our new strategy is, it has to be some complex
aspiration to Empowerment - cultural empowerment, economic
empowerment, social empowerment, political empowerment, personal
empowerment, family empowerment, community empowerment - the
proper use of political, economic and social resources - you
name it, Empowerment will cover it. Enough aspects of it for all
of us to participate according to personal interest. There is
more than enough Struggle to go around.
But the one thing we can no longer afford is to
blame others for our problems. Kujichagulia. We want to
claim self determination we got to accept self
there must be vision. Are we to determine our own
destiny or are we to continue to let it be determined
for us by people who despise us. Do we have a plan. What
exactly are we struggling for. What does it mean to be
African American in this incredibly shrinking world.
Just what does it mean to be black. To be part of the
global black community. What will it mean 100 years from
now. A 100 generations.
Not what's most
likely, but what do we want to be. Want to be. What is
the vision. Status quo is clearly unacceptable. Are we to remain
the bottomfeeders of any society that we are a part of. Do we
see black people and black communities as strong and respected.
Are we to be part of an increasingly homogenized America and
World. Or are we to just disappear as a distinct people and
Personally I do not
want African American blackfolk to disappear as a distinct
culture and people. For all the problems that come with it, I
like being black. Optimally I see a strong and beautiful people,
a respected member of the world (eventually cosmic) mosaic.
Optimally I see a wondrous people who are a beacon light unto
humanity, leading it to its ever greater self. Optimally I see
black communities and black culture as strong, healthy, wealthy
and wise. And I see struggle. I looking generations down the
line and I see plenty struggle.
But I no longer see
eternal holywar. Thats a drag. Tires me out just thinking about
it. When my warriorclans cheer the ravings of a Khallid Muhammad
it just breaks my little hoodoo heart. Samesame with maddog
performance poets and apocalyptic radicals. We aint got to be
ranting and raving to take care of business. In the multiculti
future that thin skinned posture will be increasingly
counterproductive. Taking care of business should be cool, calm
and collected. The committed must speak to the true soul of our
race, tattered though it must be. De ol' rootdoctor concerned
that we get so caught up in maddog attacks we lose sight of our
greatest longgame power? our spiritual authority.
I too am Mythmaker
and I too feel that the only way to get out of this historical
trickbag we have found ourselves in is to have a mission greater
than our adversity. A vision to believe in. But it should not be
a petty little vindictive vision that belittles others in order
to make us feel good about ourselves. We are not a petty people,
we are the Children of the Sun. Our vision should be a great and
grand and glorious vision.
I struggle hard to
be universal, to understand that all folks are my tribe and
thats where I hope to evolve. I have however found it difficult
to move past my tribal imperatives. My primary concern, no, lets
say my obsession, is the survival and prosperity of the
blackrace. Everywhere in the world blackfolk are sicker, poorer,
living harder and dying faster. Everywhere in the world that you
got blackfolk they are on the bottom of their respective
societies. Everywhere. The despised of the earth. Apparently
without exception. Cant blame Everywhere on nobody but
ourselves. Somehow someway we must transform into strengths the
weaknesses that have crippled us in global competition.
Im tired of
blackfolk being disrespected and dispirited. Im tired of
blackfolk living stunted little lives. Im tired of blackfolk
suffering. I fear for our survival as a people. I fear for our
survival as a culture. In my most mythic heart of hearts Im just
the local witchdoctor trying to help the tribe survive another
And by God and all
thats holy the tribe will not starve on my shift.
The struggle for me
has become an attempt to evolve spiritually as well as
politically and to incorporate both the nationalist and the
universal while still fulfilling my tribal shamanistic
responsibilities. I figure the most that I can do is try to wed
these two imperatives, both blackfolk and all humanity, both
these families of mine. My commitment to the struggle is
absolute but clearly my understanding of struggle has to grow. I
would redefine what it means to be a black nationalist. Define
it so that it doesnt represent a chauvinistic narrowminded
approach to life and struggle but instead a great and grand and
progressive one. The more I evolve as a aspirant holyman, the
more I see that saving (illuminating) the blackrace, entails
saving all of humanity and all Jah creature great and small. I
would blend the national with the universal and make the black
struggle synonymous with the struggle for human dignity. My
overriding concern is still and always will be saving the black
race. But it becomes more and more apparent to me that truly
developing (illuminating) the race entails empathy with all
humanity and developing a culture that consistently contributes
to the enhancement of the human condition.
The Struggle is
just too important to let it become soul crippling. It is the
Struggle that shapes our destiny, it is the Struggle we must
shape. Blackfolk who supported OJ just because he
"black" are terribly confused. If anything we should
hold blackfolk to a higher standard than anybody else would. It
has become clear to me that we have to wage a struggle as much
spiritual as it is political and that we must constantly and
aggressively eradicate all weakness and pettiness from ourselves
and our struggle.
lowroad cripples our tribalsoul and works against our growth as
a people. For in the final analysis the battle shall be one of
Grace. Which is the better Way.
I would you
therefore young hoodoo be a progressive force in the world. De
ole rootdoctor is against authoritarian governments and creeds
of any sort, including my own. Support democratic creeds/systems
over authoritarian ones and the humanization of affluent ones.
Support progressive religious impulses over fundamentalist ones.
Incorporate the best of the worlds evolved understanding into
your own. I encourage absolute respect for the dignity of the
human spirit. Do what you can when you can. And when you come to
the crossroads, always take the highroad.
must remain forever vigilant against those who despise
us and consider our weakness their strength. But thats
no longer the primary struggle. For us to keep crying
about racism is like a sailor cursing the sea because
its wet. Surely by now we have factored racism into our
strategic posture. A strong people prepare themselves to
meet and finesse any cultural challenge, be it human or
natural, KKK or AIDS.And I aint talking
about no noble suffering or not fighting back when we are
attacked. The best moral authority is one of strength. What I am
saying is that ranting and raving is not strength but weakness
and insecurity. And dont nothing irk me like blackfolk being
weak and insecure. There are alternative modes of mobilization.
I say we consider the security and prosperity of our generations
the Prime Directive. I say we calm, cool and coldblooded. We
remain forever vigilant, we maintain an ever evolving,
multifaceted strategic posture - some moves bold and strong,
some hidden in shadows, some waiting silently in the wings.
Growing in power. Masters of the Longgame.
I WOULD YOU MY PEOPLE BE MASTERS OF STRATEGY
Old player that I
am I still hope to program an instinct to power into the black
psyche. The old strategy of the weak —
manifested through strength —
the key that opens all locks.
Study the Board of
Destiny young hoodoo until you have determined maximal impact
for minimal effort. Let those without vision squander their
energies in unstructured activity. When you work you work the
roots of things. You are a rootdoctor. You who so understands The
Book of Fa that your every move changes things. In
Ideological Orchestrations, the longest most comprehensive game
wins. Swallow opposing forces by encompassing their visions. If
your vision and your game is comprehensive enough, everybody on
the planet works for you.
Change Agent approaches social conditions as a manipulation of
social system dynamics. The more comprehensive your grasp of
system dynamics the more effective your intervention. The
variables you choose to affect should be both significant and
sensitive to your manipulative ability. If necessary position
yourself geographically and professionally, adjust your
lifestyle and gain the necessary skills.
I ask my people
that you armor yourself in dignity and bid for power. Write your
name in The Great Black Book of Generations.
Now I know
blackfolk and black culture will have a problem with that idea.
Taking Power. Control of state policy and power instruments.
Anything else is either supplemental or a diversion. But
blackfolk been victims of power so long we dont trust it or the
pursuit thereof. This is Oldthought that has to be discarded.
Taking power is the logical evolution of an empowerment
Once in power you
do what you can to support humane public policy. To alleviate
the lot of the poor and the disenfranchised. To awaken the
sleeper, protect the weak and guide the strong.
will always be with us. A condition that will only increase as
society becomes more and more complex. A condition that has
always been and always will be an ongoing concern of the
righteous. First thing though is to as much as possible remove
ourselves from that category. This is critical. Our strategies
are generally predicated on being a poor. peasant people. Im not
saying we arent. What de old rootdoctor is saying is that as
long as we playing out of weakness we always gon be weak. The
old conjure see this as fundamental. Got to play strong if we
ever want to be strong. It is the essence of conjuration.
Once you take power
learn how to hold power. Enlightened rule is stable rule. The
basic human pattern seems to be when the weak finally get power
they immediately start throwing their own weight around and the
cycle continues. I have tried to build severe proscriptions
against the abuse of power into my evolving cosmology. I ask of
my people a higher road. I man speaking only to the righteous.
And when I say take
power I aint talking about no obvious and overt bids for power
that would raise all kinds of resistances, hackles and
countermoves. I aint talking about no huffing and puffing and
putting an ad in the New York Times. I need you to restrain your
tendency to wolf blackpeople. Im talking about the bank shot.
From now on my people I want you to worship subtlety. I want you
to learn how to hunt in silence.
a democracy such as ours, state power is a function of
competency in the dynamics of voluntary organization —
the single most effective instrument of empowerment in a
democratic society. You are only as strong as your people. The
war is therefore one of incessant community organizing,
empowerment and capital formation through the education,
politicalization & mobilization of your constituency. The
more sophisticated your constituency the more power you wield.
Ignore those who would have you feel guilty for racial
It is fundamentally
a question of solidarity. How do I get blackfolk to stick
Walkers words are as good today as when he said them during the
Great Gitting Up Morning, "Our greatest happiness shall
consist of working for the salvation of our whole body. When
this is accomplished a burst of glory will shine upon you which
will indeed astonish you and the world."
Nam in the 60s as a youngman was a definitive experience
for me. I man know what it can be like when blackfolk
stick together and by God and all thats holy I will have
it again if I have to move heaven and earth to make it
so. I understand that this is an ideal and life is a big
messy compromise but within that understanding I man
asking you to stick together blackpeople. Back to Back.
Black to Black.
Thats all Im asking blackpeople. The
question is how do we maintain commitment to struggle now that
its no longer an imperative. When I was growing up blackfolk had
to stick together. Racism was overt and oppressive.
Tell folks about
the pre60s South—about having to ride in the back of the bus, drink at the
colored water fountain, yessir and nosir whitefolk, and they
cant conceive it—in my day blackfolk were forced to be black.
choose to be black. There are those who
would consider this a good thing, a normalization. Most folk
just want to be left alone to make a living and raise a family.
The great majority of the race will never be actively involved
in the struggle. But if those are lives of personal dignity and
achievement then that is the essence of struggle. It is all I
The problem is that
most blackfolk still suffering. We are still the despised of the
earth. People dont want to live around us, go to school with us,
hire us, respect us or be us. Might as well be Untouchables.
This will never do. I simply will not have it.
must all over the world manifest a vibrant black culture of
illumination and empowerment so appealing that black identity is
valued and folks are proud to consider themselves black. As we
grow in power & pride all the black peoples of the world who
are shamed to be black will come back home.
TAKING CARE OF THE TRIBAL SOUL
the evolving global culture, the question is which national
cultures will survive and be definitive and which will wither
away and disappear. African American culture at its best is one
of the strongest on the planet. Witness the global influence of
the Movement as a model for other struggles. Witness the hip hop
All cultures are
simultaneously dynamic and entropic, a constantly fluctuating
blend of strengths and weaknesses. African American culture has
been as much dysfunctional and entropic as it has been vibrant
and illuminated. So weak sometimes you wonder how we will ever
survive. Which shall it be. Shall we survive and prosper as a
people and culture or shall we decline and wither.
premise is that the health of the tribalsoul is the root
of all blessings. If the cultural soul is healthy, our
strategies are healthy, our lifestyles are healthy, our
communities are healthy. If the soul is sick everything
else is dysfunctional - our lifestyles, our
relationships, our communities, our Vision. When the
tribal soul is healthy and vigorously evolving its
people live healthy, vigorous lives. Their culture
produces works that enlighten the entire human race and
become part of the global Worldspirit.
One cares for the
tribal soul by monitoring it through its cultural products,
contributing what it needs to balance out its weaknesses and
emphasize its strengths. Minimizing the dysfunctional components
and emphasizing the transformational. The battles over gangster
rap and mercenary literature are battles for the control of our
cultural traits. Of our destiny. Our Fa.
My ultimate game is
to ensure that blackfolk are never on the bottom ever again. My
goal is that blackfolk be so strong in spirit, so powerful a
people that no matter what the governing system we find
ourselves part of —
no matter where in the world/cosmos we find ourselves in the
foreseeable and unforeseeable future —
that blackfolk not
only survive and prosper as a race and culture but that they are
illuminated and empowered, forces for justice and righteousness
in whatever type of social system they find themselves. Or
I will always be a
warrior, but I am no longer a young and vigorous warrior, I am
an old warhorse now, hopefully wise and wily. One who has been
through enough campaigns that it is the longcampaign that I
concern myself with now —
how does one live a life rich in grace and comfort that is still
yet one of absolute and lifelong commitment to struggle. A
permanent state of mobilization that precludes revolutionary
burnout. What John O Killens called being a longdistance runner.
What I call The Longgame.
I fear folk think I
am a joke. A failed novelist w/metafictional mindburn. Emerge
Magazine did an article awhile back on invisible black male
writers and I didnt even make the invisible list. Guess God dont
want me resting on my laurels. No sense having an attitude cause
folk dont see my vision. Thats why they call it a vision.
THIS IS MY VISION: THIS IS WHAT I SEE
I see blackfolk as
a wise and wondrous people: humanities guide and guardian.
Optimally I see a strong and beautiful people, a respected
member of the world (eventually cosmic) mosaic. Optimally I see
a wondrous people who are a beacon light unto humanity, leading
it to its ever greater self. Optimally I see black communities
and black culture as strong, healthy, wealthy and wise.
I call for the
highroad, blackpeople. It is a good plan. It is aluta continua.
It is Irie. It is Geas by Rickydoc. I see this highroad as
always leading to the next stage of human development, no matter
what it is. Therefore it is not wedded to any one period, age,
phase, peoples or point. There is always the next step.
I see this
highroad as the eternal impulse to your greater self.
Whenever you are making a Crossroads Decision, always
try to be conscious of the greater good. Strive always
to be greater than you are.
I ask then
that we strive always to be the most magnanimous, most
magnificent and most beautiful people on the planet. I
ask that we take responsibility not only for our own
destiny but for the destiny and wellbeing of all peoples
and all Jah creature great and small.
your legacy as Gods holy instrument and reach our true
potential as a people you must stand on higher ground.
ask only that we be the great and glorious people we were meant
to be. The Illuminated Children of the Sun. Humanities living
ancestors. Gods true chosen. This then is the
Geas of Rickydoc: stewardship of humanities struggle to evolve,
to be ever greater than it is.
Once again you must
stand where others crawl. Once again you must show de way.
Listen o ye firstborn to these words of power and I will give
you my people a mission greater than your adversity.
Im probably the slackest holyman ever been. It
cross my mind sometime that if I really am the hope of the race
we in bigger trouble than we thought. But what can I do. Im in
it now. Be damn if Ima let history say I had the power but didnt
have the heart: I will continue to conduct myself as I aspire to
be. A 21st Century Conjureman. Doing I job.
* * *
Flowers, a Memphis native, is the author of two novels,
De Mojo Blues and Another Good Loving Blues (Ballantine Books), and a children's story,
Cleveland Lee's Beale Street Band. He is a
Vietnam veteran, blues singer, co-founder of the New Renaissance
Writer's Guild. In addition, he is the webmaster of Rootsblog:
A Cyberhoodoo Webspace and a performance artist whose presentation, Delta Oracle: A Griot
Speaks in Tongues, keeps him busy and Professor of MFA Fiction at Syracuse University.
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Eyeminded: Living and Writing Contemporary Art
A daughter of the poets
Hettie Jones and Amiri Baraka, Kellie Jones grew
up immersed in a world of artists, musicians, and
writers in Manhattan’s East Village and absorbed in
black nationalist ideas about art, politics, and
social justice across the river in Newark. The
activist vision of art and culture that she learned
in those two communities, and especially from her
family, has shaped her life and work as an art
critic and curator. Featuring selections of her
writings from the past twenty years,
EyeMinded reveals Jones’s role in bringing
attention to the work of African American, African,
Latin American, and women artists who have
challenged established art practices. Interviews
that she conducted with the painter
Howardena Pindell, the installation and
David Hammons, and the
sculptor Kcho appear along with pieces on the
Lorna Simpson, and
Pat Ward Williams; the sculptor
Martin Puryear; the assemblage artist
Betye Saar; and the painters
Norman Lewis, and
Al Loving. Reflecting Jones’s curatorial
sensibility, this collection is structured as a
dialogue between her writings and works by her
parents, her sister
Lisa Jones, and her husband
Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr.
EyeMinded offers a glimpse into the family
conversation that has shaped and sustained Jones,
insight into the development of her critical and
curatorial vision, and a survey of some of the most
important figures in contemporary art.
* * * *
Michelle Alexander: US Prisons, The New Jim Crow
Judge Mathis Weighs in on the execution of Troy Davis
The New Jim Crow
Mass Incarceration in the Age of
By Michele Alexander
Contrary to the
rosy picture of race embodied in Barack
Obama's political success and Oprah
Winfrey's financial success, legal
scholar Alexander argues vigorously and
persuasively that [w]e have not ended
racial caste in America; we have merely
redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial
segregation has been replaced by mass
incarceration as a system of social
control (More African Americans are
under correctional control today... than
were enslaved in 1850). Alexander
reviews American racial history from the
colonies to the Clinton administration,
delineating its transformation into the
war on drugs. She offers an acute
analysis of the effect of this mass
incarceration upon former inmates who
will be discriminated against, legally,
for the rest of their lives, denied
employment, housing, education, and
public benefits. Most provocatively, she
reveals how both the move toward
colorblindness and affirmative action
may blur our vision of injustice: most
Americans know and don't know the truth
about mass incarceration—Publishers
* * *
The Persistence of the Color Line
Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency
By Randall Kennedy
Among the best things about
The Persistence of the Color Line
is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the
positions about Mr. Obama staked out by
black commentators on the left and
right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel
West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley.
He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr.
Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism
regarding whether blacks should back
Obama” . . . The
finest chapter in
The Persistence of the Color Line
is so resonant, and so personal, it
could nearly be the basis for a book of
its own. That chapter is titled
“Reverend Wright and My Father:
Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”
Recalling some of the criticisms of
America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s
former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with
feeling about his own father, who put
each of his three of his children
through Princeton but who “never forgave
American society for its racist
mistreatment of him and those whom he
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