Saturday, February 1, 2014

Introduction: My Project for Black History Month 2014

February is Black History Month.  I have often done something on my blog for that.  Or more accurately, at least for three years, I have written a post for Black History Month on every day of February.  In February 2010, I blogged about movies pertaining to African-American history, such as Roots.  In February 2011, I read and blogged about W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, as well as Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery.  In February 2012, I blogged through Dean Kotlowski’s Nixon’s Civil Rights, a book about President Richard Nixon’s civil rights record.

I did not do anything on my blog for Black History Month in February 2013, for I was busy with My Year (or More) of Nixon.  I decided to do something for February 2014, however, for there are three books that I have long wanted to read, yet I have not gotten an opportunity to do so.  In this month, I will read and blog through them.

The first book is John McWhorter’s 2000 book, Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America.  McWhorter is an African-American and an academic, and you can read more about him here.  From what I have read of the book so far, its thesis seems to be that African-Americans have made significant progress beyond where they were in the 1960′s, that—-while racism still exists—-it is on the wane as a significant barrier to African-Americans, and that African-Americans are only holding themselves back with their victimology.

The second book is Andrew Hacker’s 1992 book, Two Nations, Black and White: Separate, Hostile, and Unequal.  An African-American student recommended this book to me in the year 2001 because I naively asked him if racism was still a problem.  I was also parroting to him my understanding of what someone told me that McWhorter said in Losing the Race (we’ll get into that in my next blog post), and that actually kept this student up that night.  He recommended this book to me so I could learn that racism is still a problem that is holding African-Americans back.

If I read thirty pages a day of these books, I will have them both finished by February 18.  There will then be ten days left of Black History Month.  How shall I spend that time?  Well, I will spend it reading Michael Eric Dyson’s 2005 book, Is Bill Cosby Right?: Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?  I first heard Michael Eric Dyson speak back when I was an undergraduate in the mid 1990′s, and I did not care for him because the university was requiring all students to go hear him speak, he was bashing my conservative heroes, and I thought that he came across as rather arrogant.  About a decade later, I was flipping through channels and came across a discussion on C-Span between Dyson and the program’s host, an African-American woman, about Bill Cosby’s controversial 2004 speech.  Wikipedia states in its article about Cosby’s speech: “In it, Cosby was highly critical of members of subsets of the black community in the United States. He criticized the use of African American Vernacular English, the prevalence of single-parent families, the emphasis on frivolous and conspicuous consumption at the expense of necessities, lack of responsibility, and other behaviors.”  The white conservatives whom I knew were cheering Cosby on, and Dyson’s comments were the first criticism I actually encountered of Cosby’s speech.  I was intrigued by what Dyson had to say.  As I look at the description of the book on Amazon, I see that it is not just about Bill Cosby, but it concerns the divide between the African-American middle class and the African-American poor.  Notwithstanding the negative reviews of it on Amazon, I would like to read it.

The way that I will do my blog posts is that I will mention any points that I found interesting, either from the thirty pages that I read that day, or from my previous reading of the book.  As I said near the end of My Year (or More) of Nixon, there are times when I may encounter a number of interesting points one day, and then the next day I read nothing that I want to blog about.  Why, then, should I confine myself to blogging each day about that day’s thirty pages that I read?  I won’t do that!

I’m seriously debating whether or not I should allow comments.  On the one hand, I do want to hear what people have to say and to learn from their experiences.  This is especially true because the books are relatively old: McWhorter’s is fourteen years old, Hacker’s is twenty-two, and Dyson’s is eight.  I don’t want to buy different books, yet I want to know what the latest is on the issue of racism.  On the other hand, doing a project of this sort as a privileged white person can leave me vulnerable to trolling and personal attacks on my blog.  I am open to learning.  I am not open to being put down, to feeling as if I have to walk on egg shells as I try to express myself, and to being attacked on a point by someone who is not interested in following up his or her argument after I ask him or her questions.  That said, I will play by ear whether or not I allow comments.

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