Fear of black consciousness

Lewis R. Gordon, 1962-

Book - 2022

"In this original and penetrating work, Lewis R. Gordon, one of the leading scholars of Black existentialism and anti-Blackness, takes the reader on a journey through the historical development of racialized Blackness, the problems this kind of consciousness produces, and the many creative responses from Black and non-Black communities in contemporary struggles for dignity and freedom"--

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New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2022.
Main Author
Lewis R. Gordon, 1962- (author)
First edition
Physical Description
276 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages [231]-256) and index.
  • Prologue
  • Introduction: Struggling to Breathe
  • Part I. Bound
  • 1. Feared
  • 2. Blackened
  • 3. Erased; or, "I Don't See Race"
  • Part II. Race-Making and Racism
  • 4. Race-Making
  • 5. Racism Intersected
  • 6. Privilege, Luxury, License
  • 7. Trans but Not Transcended
  • Part III. Political Realities
  • 8. Five Kinds of Invisibility
  • 9. Black Consciousness is Political
  • 10. Black Consciousness in Wakanda
  • Part IV. Even When Black and Blue
  • 11. Blue
  • 12. Valued
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Philosopher Gordon (Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism) draws in this probing and accessible study a distinction between the kind of "racialized black consciousness" shaped by white supremacy and a "liberatory Black consciousness" that refuses "to apologize for Black lives having value." Interweaving autobiographical details about his childhood in Jamaica and the Bronx in the 1960s and '70s with historical sketches of Black liberation movements and incisive discussions of the links between neoliberalism, racism, and the coronavirus pandemic, Gordon argues that the U.S. and other societies "devoted to blocking black people's access to citizenship" are "fundamentally antipolitical and antidemocratic," and argues that the fight against racism is "ultimately a fight for democracy." He delves into the history of racialized thought in Australia, Brazil, South Africa, and the U.S., and shows how anti-Black views get perpetuated even within the Black community, where "the opportunities available to lighter-skinned blacks are greater than those for darker-skinned blacks." The contrast between his lack of racial awareness as a child in Jamaica, where the leading public figures were all Black, and his Bronx elementary school, where he learned the meaning of the n-word, is enlightening, as is his discussion of Black Panther, which analyzes how the film "distinguishes legitimate force from violence" and "rais the question of what Africa could offer the world if it were seen with open eyes." The result is an essential, up-to-the-minute reckoning with racism. (Jan.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

Head of the philosophy department at the University of Connecticut-Storrs and a leading scholar of Black existentialism and anti-Blackness, Gordon tracks the historical development of racialized Blackness and its consequences for both Black and non-Black communities. In particular, he addresses the bad faith evident in many conversations about race and racism, challenging claims of "color blindness" and calling out white self-congratulation. Informed not just by Gordon's philosophical acumen but by his upbringing in Jamaica and the Bronx and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

An Afro-Jewish philosopher looks at Black consciousness and the struggle against pervasive White supremacist social structures. "Racism is the institutional production of nonhuman status to groups of human beings," writes Gordon, head of the philosophy department at the University of Connecticut, "with the consequence of a 'race' or set of 'races' being treated as inferior or superior to others." Certainly, that is manifest in most working definitions of White supremacy, although, as he adds, these days most adherents of that doctrine prefer somewhat blander terms such as alt-right or white nationalism. Furthermore, argues the author, that racism exists on the left as well as the right. He suggests that small-b black consciousness accommodates this system, whereas what is needed is "to become actional, to fight against oppression"--i.e., to take up the cause of a capital-B Black consciousness that repudiates all ideas of White supremacy and Black inferiority. Gordon stretches a bit, though in the end convincingly, to incorporate the film Black Panther into this evolution. The author sometimes paints with too wide a brush, as when he asserts that "whites want everything," a charge that would certainly risk alienating well-meaning allies. Nonetheless, the author has a keen understanding of the supremacist playbook, which draws on a range of old-school and neofascist sources to arrive at the maxim that the only way to make oneself superior is to make another inferior. Here, Gordon broadens the discussion to include intersectionality and the "understanding that race is connected to a multitude of other ways of living in the Euromodern world, including class, gender, indigeneity, and sexuality," with new discriminations at each juncture. Racism is not supremacism as such, he holds, but both can be defeated with the new Black consciousness that both of them fear. A provocative addition to the literature of race, racism, and resistance. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.