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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

MACTV News: HAS BLACK ANGER ENDED?, Posted by Menelik Zeleke

Week of July 18, 2011

By William Reed


The worst abuses of the Jim Crow era have been eliminated, but the moral outrage inspired by a personal encounter with bigotry remains the most powerful vehicle for conveying the injuries and indignities of racial inequality.

In the days since the great civil rights awakening, a revolution has occurred across America. Uptight suburbanites who couldn’t imagine socializing with, working for or marrying a “Negro,” have given way to a new and different generation.  That process has cleared the way for a generation of “Black Believers” who fully accept that America means what it says when it promises to treat them fairly.  Are these young African Americans naive about racism or basically more confident than their elders? Now, from a venerated and best-selling author on American life comes a tremendously important book about one of the most significant issues in the history of our republic – America’s race relations.

The book, The End of Anger by Ellis Cose offers a fresh, original appraisal of our nation at this extraordinary time, tracking the diminishment of Black anger and investigating the "generational shifting of the American mind."  Weaving material from myriad interviews as well as two large and ambitious surveys - one of Black Harvard MBAs and the other of graduates of A Better Chance, a program that has offered elite educational opportunities to thousands of young people of color since 1963 – Cose offers an invaluable portrait of contemporary America in which all agree that life is different for an African American than it is for a White American. Cose says that what is different is the perception of discrimination in terms of their life possibilities. Younger Blacks are more likely to believe that they can personally overcome institutional racism because there are ways to get around it that their parents didn’t have, and their grandparents could not even imagine.

Cose sketches a picture of consistent historical and generational change in which growing optimism among Blacks is a natural response to waning racial bigotry among Whites.  In The End of Anger, Cose names each generation to reflect improving race relations: the Black “Fighters” of midcentury America were succeeded by the civil rights “Dreamers” of the late 20th century, who are now sharing power and prominence with the “Believers” of the new millennium. Cose’s collection of intergenerational interviews provides tangible evidence of the improvement in racial dynamics over the past 50 years: the contempt and blatant discrimination suffered by the “fighters” and “dreamers” giving way to the inter­racial relationships and expanded job opportunities of the “believers.”

The refreshing, readable and comprehensive book cites “a sense of optimism among African Americans” and in a interesting manner, attributes the increase of Black optimism to three factors: Barack Obama’s election; "generational evolution," which sees each successive generation harboring fewer racial prejudices, suggesting that African Americans could be facing less racism than their parents; and the related rise of racial equality.

The book provides a contemporary look at 21st century America and is a paradoxical portrait of race in America, where educated, privileged Blacks are optimistic about their futures, but for Blacks at the lower end of the economic spectrum, equality remains as elusive as ever. Cose matches statistics to analysis in his comprehensive look at race in the 21st century.  The End of Anger provides insight on young Black movers and shakers like the former Tennessee congressman Harold E. Ford Jr. and the N.A.A.C.P. president, Benjamin Jealous.  Cose’s interviews with well-­established leaders with relatively conventional platforms and constituencies produced predictable comments.

Does hard-core and blatant racism still exist?  Read Cose’s offering as he states “I think we will for generations, and maybe forever, be dealing with the impact of racism. But racism as a phenomenon itself is fading, but I don't think we’ll reach a point where we can talk about it and deal with it when it’s still a problem.”  Racism is a problem we still have to deal with in America, but The End of Anger may well be the most important book dealing with race to date. 

(William Reed is available for speaking/seminar projects via BaileyGroup.org)

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