01-27-2009 12:49 AM
In The Breakthrough, veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama's stunning presidential victory and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.
Ifill argues that the Black political structure formed during the Civil Rights movement is giving way to a generation of men and women who are the direct beneficiaries of the struggles of the 1960s. She offers incisive, detailed profiles of such prominent leaders as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and U.S. Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama (all interviewed for this book), and also covers numerous up-and-coming figures from across the nation. Drawing on exclusive interviews with power brokers such as President Obama, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, his son Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., and many others, as well as her own razor-sharp observations and analysis of such issues as generational conflict, the race/ gender clash, and the "black enough" conundrum, Ifill shows why this is a pivotal moment in American history.
The Breakthrough is a remarkable look at contemporary politics and an essential foundation for understanding the future of American democracy in the age of Obama.
In the wake of his controversial national best-seller, **bleep**: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word, Randall Kennedy grapples brilliantly and judiciously with another stigma of our racial discourse: "selling out," or racial betrayal, which is a subject of much anxiety and acrimony in Black America. He atomizes the vicissitudes of the term and shows how its usage bedevils blacks and whites, while elucidating the effects it has on individuals and on our society as a whole.
Kennedy begins his exploration of selling out with a cogent, historical definition of the "black" community, accounting precisely for who is considered black and who is not. He looks at the ways in which prominent members of that community—Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Barack Obama, among others—have been stigmatized as sellouts. He outlines the history of the suspicion of racial betrayal among blacks, and he shows how current fears of selling out are expressed in thought and practice. He offers a rigorous and bracing case study of the quintessential "sellout"—Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, perhaps the most vilified black public official in American history. And he gives is a first-person reckoning of how he himself has dealt with accusations of having sold out at Harvard, especially after the publication of **bleep**.
Lucidly and powerfully articulated, Sellout is essential to any discussion of the troubled history of race in America.
In addition to these books, we will as ever be looking at current events in the nation and world at large — both independently and in how they relate to the books/subject at hand. Readers with expertise in the subject or familiarity with similar texts are, as ever, welcome to share their observations and how they relate to the month's two Featured Reads.
01-27-2009 12:44 PM
What the Obama presidency means is that the dream of King, and many of us who believed in and marched with him, that America would become race neutral, where race became as irrelevant in society as ear shape, has been pushed back even further.
The racial industry, and it is that -- Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and all the other black leaders are making a mint of money out of making sure that full integration and equality don't happen -- is going to make sure that racial politics remains central on the national political scene, and those who believe in true racial equality will need to wait at least another generation.
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.