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Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished…

Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (2004)

by Nikhil Pal Singh

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A detailed review of black-white relations in America, particularly around WWII. Singh's main point is that blacks in the US are constantly caught between wanting to be accepted into a raceless society that claims to be inclusive and a deep underlying racism that always excludes it. Even as the US claims that race is irrelevant, the language it uses reinforces race as a factor in society. Singh traces some specifics, particularly the approach the black leaders use in attempts to integrate. They lean towards Marxism in the 30's because the Soviet model appears less overtly racism. It also proves to be less relevant, especially after the Soviets appease Hitler at the beginning of WWI. Then blacks largely support US war efforts, even as the racism in the military remains high. They use the "Double V" strategy of fighting racism at home while fighting fascism abroad. After fascism is defeated, they naturally link their own fight with the end of colonialism, but end up having to mute that as racists in US society accuse them of being pro-Soviet. This work is very readable. Although it gets a bit dense on the intellectual side of things, I found it very informative on the debate among black leaders as the modern Civil Rights movement began. ( )
  Scapegoats | Oct 24, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674019512, Paperback)

Despite black gains in modern America, the end of racism is not yet in sight. Nikhil Pal Singh asks what happened to the worldly and radical visions of equality that animated black intellectual activists from W. E. B. Du Bois in the 1930s to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. In so doing, he constructs an alternative history of civil rights in the twentieth century, a long civil rights era, in which radical hopes and global dreams are recognized as central to the history of black struggle.

It is through the words and thought of key black intellectuals, like Du Bois, Ralph Bunche, C. L. R. James, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, and others, as well as movement activists like Malcolm X and Black Panthers, that vital new ideas emerged and circulated. Their most important achievement was to create and sustain a vibrant, black public sphere broadly critical of U.S. social, political, and civic inequality.

Finding racism hidden within the universalizing tones of reform-minded liberalism at home and global democratic imperatives abroad, race radicals alienated many who saw them as dangerous and separatist. Few wanted to hear their message then, or even now, and yet, as Singh argues, their passionate skepticism about the limits of U.S. democracy remains as indispensable to a meaningful reconstruction of racial equality and universal political ideals today as it ever was.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:27 -0400)

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