Critiques of The Black Community
February 15, 2008 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Canofwormsfilter: Help me find fair, well-reasoned books that critique "The Black Community."

I've found lots of good books that highlight the "positives" of black culture and achievement, or that focus on the detrimental effects that racism, white privilege, and class structure have had on the black community.

Now I'm looking for books that fairly critique the black community in terms of problematic aspects of "blackness," failed community leadership, the psychology of victimhood/learned helplessness, etc.

This might be a useful criterion for what I'm looking for: in discussions of race relations, you often hear people say, "While it's true that X and Y are problems for the black community, what's really at the bottom of it is (racism, white privilege, class, etc.)." I'm looking for books that focus on the X and Y. Bonus points for books written by black authors.

My intent is not to be an apologist for racism. I'm honestly trying to round out my readings in race relations, and from my perspective it's only fair to consider the black community "warts and all," as I would any other community. I realize this touches a nerve with many well-meaning white folks, but it's what I'm after nonetheless.

Finally, a plea for civility in this thread. Race and racism are hot-button topics here on MeFi (god knows), as well as in society, and we're going to have some disagreements here about what constitutes "fair" and "well-reasoned" writing, or the line between a critique and an attack. So please keep in mind that I want to build a bibliography, not start a snark-fest.
posted by Rykey to Education (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Bill Cosby's recent Come On People (comma-free in the original) might be along those lines.

(In the interest of equal time, I might as well point out Michael Eric Dyson's response to some of Cosby's comments, Is Bill Cosby Right? Dyson is, in my view, far more fair and reasoned than Cosby.)

Self-styled black conservatives like Larry Elder and Alan Keyes might be worth considering, though, again, these guys might not meet my personal standards of fairness or reason.
posted by box at 8:47 AM on February 15, 2008

Bill Cosby
Thomas Sowell
posted by Class Goat at 8:47 AM on February 15, 2008

Have a look at the work of Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele.
posted by googly at 8:51 AM on February 15, 2008

You might find this article about John McWhorter interesting. McWhorter is a black Cal Linguistics professor (who is a fantastic teacher -- I managed to sit in on a few of his linguistics lectures before I decided I wasn't as interested in linguistics as I thought) who wrote a book called Losing The Race that makes some of the arguments you're looking for. The article is very good, and mentions some other sources you can check into. However, it is an older article (Summer 2001), so you may also want to seek out some followups.
posted by fishfucker at 9:05 AM on February 15, 2008

Class Goat's link to Thomas Sowell is hard to beat. He is without a doubt one of America's top scholars and this has been one of his subjects of interest for a number of years. I think he's worth reading on any subject and he is just as penetrating in this book as the rest. Black Rednecks and White Liberals is an incredible essay, it manages to be startling while making a case you recognize as obvious at the same time. It's very well reasoned and he keeps an even handed tone while dealing with some very controversial issues. If a lesser writer had made this argument it would have been in the news for some time. But his reputation is strong and this essay's argument is hard to attack. It's very carefully put together, this isn't some screed, he has plenty of citations. I also strongly recommend his essay on African-American academic achievement. It's in one of his books of essays but I'm not sure which.
posted by BigSky at 10:07 AM on February 15, 2008

seconding the McWhorter book. it's the newest thing out there on the subject. Controversial of course, but I think is a better place to start than the Cosby book. If you can: check out McWhorter's appearance on The McLaughlan Group: One-on-One... it was in the past couple of months I think.
posted by indiebass at 10:21 AM on February 15, 2008

Forgot to link to the new book: "Winning the Race"
posted by indiebass at 10:23 AM on February 15, 2008

I also second John McWhorter, especially the earlier of his two main books on race, Losing the Race (linked above). That's the core of his argument. I'm in the middle of reading Winning the Race, and it's too padded and not as entertaining as Losing the Race. (He constantly peppers his writing with anecdotes and humor to keep it from becoming too depressing.) So I would start with Losing the Race even though it's a few years older.

He has a huge archive of online editorials here, and he's done some Bloggingheads diavlogs (search for participant "McWhorter" and include "all" dates).
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:52 AM on February 15, 2008

I 2nd Juan Williams' book ...and certainly don't intend to start a snark-fest, but "fair" when it comes to a subject like "the black community," is going to be extremely, extremely subjective.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:38 AM on February 15, 2008

Not to be introducing the snark when you've so politely asked for a bibliography, but I think better than Juan Williams and Cosby, is stuff like the Dyson book (which I haven't read yet), but the premium is a little old but definitely needed in the collection is James Baldwin.
posted by history is a weapon at 11:45 AM on February 15, 2008

Best answer: Code of The Street by Elijah Anderson. Can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by lpsguy at 1:45 PM on February 15, 2008

The authors who come directly to mind:

Frantz Fanon, for that historical tilt that helps explain some of the most basic underpinnings of the current situation.
James Baldwin, as mentioned above - similar reason.
Greg Tate, who gets his ponder on magnificently.
Marcus Garvy is controversial, but part of his platform was a criticism of buying into the promises of colonialism, which is another underpinning of the current situation.
posted by batmonkey at 2:17 PM on February 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much-- I've come across a few of these authors before, and plan to check them out ASAP.
Keep the recommendations coming!
posted by Rykey at 3:37 PM on February 15, 2008

Not sure this qualifies, but Cornel West does make some comments about a crisis of black leadership in Race Matters and makes certain constrained criticisms in recorded speeches I've heard.
posted by salvia at 6:38 PM on February 15, 2008

« Older I don't want it to stand for "Poor scammed peon"   |   How do I send cash anonymously to someone and make... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.