There are many challenges facing African Americans. Yet many seem to lack a working, everyday understanding of the goals and dynamics of black politics. By that I mean what it does or what it is suppose to do, what is the purpose and definition of it. Or even, what, if anything, changes when a black is the head of government at any level – local, state or national, in regards to black politics.
Theoretically, black politics denotes the advocacy of African-American political and economic rights. Accordingly, advancement of these rights impacts the social and psychological well being of blacks. Political scientist Rickey Hill gives the best operating definition of black politics as “…the purposeful activities of black people to acquire, use, and maintain power. The dimensions of black politics are internal and external. They characterize a struggle for power, that is, the realization and defense of black people’s interests and volition. This struggle for power reflects historical tensions and constraints between and among black people and white people. These tensions and constraints, concerning optimum strategies for control and liberation, are grounded in the dominant-dominated relationship of the two groups.” Black politics seeks to change how whites think and respond to supremacy and dispossession.
[Publisher’s Comments] : 2008 saw an African-American run for the presidency as the nominee of the Democratic Party for the first time in U.S. history also witnessed a truly remarkable silence—one that was scarcely coincidental. In all the millions of words written about a political ascent of one black man, there was virtually nothing about the descent of black leadership into well nigh total ineffectiveness. Barack Obama’s personal itinerary was mapped in minutest detail. The larger itinerary of African Americans was mostly ignored.
Gray’s take is radical and so his focus is always ample and humane. In these passionate pages he takes his readers into areas of darkness—South Carolina’s heritage of slavery, for example—and into the vibrancy and heat of James Brown and Richard Pryor. Gray’s intellectual footwork is as sure as Muhammad Ali’s in his prime, and the k.o. is as deadly.
No one should venture a mile into the rough terrain of black politics and culture in America today without reading Gray’s Waiting for Lightning to Strike. There’s no keener mind, no sharper eye focused on the condition of black politics.
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