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Dimensions of Racism: Review of "Race and Resistance"

Sheri Whatley
Date Published: 
February 14, 2003

Race and Resistance: African Americans in the 21st Century
Edited by Herb Boyd
South End Press, 2002

In this book, Herb Boyd has compiled a group of powerfully concise explanations and deconstructions of the current American capitalist system. It includes eloquent discussions on a vast array of issues concerning specifically African Americans, but it is truly a perspective much needed in the broader movement to change this world.

Many well-respected and famous writers make contributions to this book. Ron Daniels, Angela Davis, Bill Fletcher, Amiri Baraka, bell hooks, and Manning Marable are but a few of the leading activists found in this collection of essays.

The collection starts out with an important thought by Boyd: “while many of the issues facing African Americans at the beginning of the twenty-first century are not novel, our strategies for self-determination, expression, and indeed, resistance, have had to be consistently inventive and resourceful to be effective.”

An eloquent discussion of the history of racism in the US by Daniels, breaking it down so well that even Trent Lott could understand it, sets the foundation for the rest of the book. His sober analysis of the creation and implementation of institutional racism that was instilled in American society and how it specifically affects African Americans economically is probably one of the finest I’ve ever read.

The book moves to an interview with Bill Fletcher who explains the history and current state of African Americans in organized labor. He talks about the significant numbers involved as rank and file members (almost 15% of organized labor), yet when it comes to positions of leadership within the union, they are vastly underrepresented.

However, the most interesting parts were his discussion of youth and of the black middle class. Of African American youth, he says that many seem to believe that “collective struggle and action is a thing of the past” and that having money and owning a business are the only ways to effect change in Black America. Middle class African Americans, he continues, have become so comfortable with their economic status that they have become afraid to “rock the boat” with regard to racial issues, such as police brutality.

Incarceration rates

Angela Davis gives a compelling breakdown of the Prison Industrial Complex and explains the increasing rates of incarceration for black men and women as a newer form of social control. She outlines how prisons profit from incarcerating people by quoting Eve Goldberg and Linda Evans, “for private business, prison is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No health benefits…” Her call for change blasts the notion that “conversations about ‘race relations’ will hardly dismantle a prison industrial complex that thrives on and nourishes the racism hidden within the deep structures of our society.”

Salih Booker pens a most powerful critique of W’s plans, appropriately titled “George Bush’s Global Agenda: Bad News for Africa.” The global issues of AIDS, trade policies and the failure of international peacekeeping have had the most devastating effects in Africa, yet the current US administration has repeatedly said that Africa does not “fit into the national strategic interests” of America.

He outlines the devastating effects that debt repayment is having on African countries and writes, “these are mostly illegitimate foreign debts, contracted during the Cold War by unrepresentative governments from Western creditors that sought to buy geopolitical loyalties, not to finance development in countries previously set back by Western colonialism. They beg the question: Who owes whom?”

Some of the other topics covered within this book are: AIDS in America and Africa, the Black Radical Congress, reparations, black women’s activism, race and gender, the economic status of African Americans, critiques of WTO/IMF/WB in Africa, the environmental justice movement, the art of hip hop, the lack of control over media and the need to resurrect the call for revolution within the black church.

Although it leaves out many struggles, namely that of violence against women and the unique issues of black lesbians, it is nevertheless a powerful anti-capitalist critique that deconstructs a wide section of myths that have populated American society.