Tommie Shelby
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    We Who Are Dark provides the first extended philosophical defense of black political solidarity. Tommie Shelby argues that we can reject a biological idea of race and agree with many criticisms of identity politics yet still view black political solidarity as a needed emancipatory tool. In developing his defense of black solidarity, he draws on the history of black political thought, focusing on the canonical figures of Martin R. Delany and W. E. B. Du Bois.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04352-7
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Introduction: Political Philosophy and the Black Experience
    (pp. 1-23)

    Black leaders have frequently urged African Americans to become a more unified political force to achieve the full freedom and equality that American ideals promise, and many blacks continue to believe that such solidarity is essential. But what does black solidarity entail? Traditionally, this sense of solidarity has a dual basis, one positive and the other negative. The shared racial identity and cultural heritage of African Americans provide a foundation for black unity, and those in the ethnoracial community of African descent often seek to preserve and celebrate the group’s cultural distinctiveness through group loyalty, communal intercourse, ritual, and collective...

  5. 1 Two Conceptions of Black Nationalism
    (pp. 24-59)

    Black nationalism is one of the oldest and most enduring traditions in American political thought.¹ Black nationalists advocate such things as black self-determination, racial solidarity and group self-reliance, various forms of voluntary racial separation, pride in the historic achievements of persons of African descent, a concerted effort to overcome racial self-hate and to instill black self-love, militant collective resistance to white supremacy, the development and preservation of a distinctive black cultural identity, and the recognition of Africa as the true homeland of those who are racially black. Many of these ideas have seemed to some to be at odds with...

  6. 2 Class, Poverty, and Shame
    (pp. 60-100)

    Perhaps no one has thought longer and more systematically about the philosophical foundations of black political solidarity than W. E. B. Du Bois, one of the principal architects of the modern civil rights paradigm for black political action and a co-founder of America’s oldest civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Since his death, blacks have formally secured equal citizenship rights through federal statutes that outlaw racial discrimination in education, voting, employment, housing, lending, and public accommodations. The federal government has also instituted programs designed to improve the socioeconomic condition of black citizens (such...

  7. 3 Black Power Nationalism
    (pp. 101-135)

    The vast majority of African Americans do not favor forming a separate black nation-state.¹ Despite their justified grievances, they generally recognize the United States as their home. Of course, many do have ambivalence, and at times hostility, toward their country. They have become disillusioned with some of their nation’s more lofty ideals or, rather, by the failure of their government and compatriots to live up to them.² Given the historical experience of blacks in America and the persistence of racism, this ambivalence should hardly be surprising. Though these sentiments rarely translate into a desire to expatriate, the idea of group...

  8. 4 Black Solidarity after Black Power
    (pp. 136-160)

    Blacks must be clear about what they ultimately want, and can reasonably expect, from group solidarity. Do blacks want to maintain themselves indefinitely as a distinct, politically autonomous sub-nation and to view their autonomy, not simply as a means to full and equal civic standing within a multiracial democratic polity, but as an intrinsic goal? Or should they, following the principles of pragmatic nationalism, regard themselves as a community burdened by the stigma of race and racial inequality, collectively seeking to bring about a society where individuals are no longer unfairly disadvantaged because of their racial classification?

    At this historical...

  9. 5 Race, Culture, and Politics
    (pp. 161-200)

    I have argued that a black public philosophy should include a commitment to antiracism, antipoverty, and substantive racial equality. Yet many advocates of black solidarity would urge that we also include a commitment to black cultural autonomy. At least since the late nineteenth century, prominent black intellectuals, artists, and activists have advocated various forms of black cultural self-determination. And as William Van Deburg has observed, cultural nationalism, perhaps more than any other ideology of the Black Power era, continues to have an enormous impact on African American self-understanding, political consciousness, and social institutions.¹ Moreover, the cultural politics of difference (or...

  10. 6 Social Identity and Group Solidarity
    (pp. 201-242)

    In an effort to liberate blacks from the burdens of racial injustice, blacks frequently call upon, even pressure, one another to become a more unified collective agent for social change. There are, of course, critics who think such solidarity irrational, impractical, and even morally objectionable.¹ Yet many people, both black and nonblack, continue to believe that black solidarity is essential to achieve the full freedom and social equality that American ideals promise. As we have seen, though, even among those who agree that black solidarity is important for bringing about racial justice, there is substantial disagreement over the precise meaning...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 243-256)

    The conception of solidarity defended in this book is not a radical departure from what many black Americans already accept. Though the basis of black unity is often conflated with classical nationalism, Washingtonian conservatism, Black Power, cultural nationalism, or identity politics, the appropriate foundation is nevertheless implicit in black common sense, a component of those “black strivings” of which Du Bois spoke so eloquently inThe Souls of Black Folk.Indeed, Du Bois defends, at times, a view very much in line with pragmatic nationalism. InDusk of Dawn,for example, Du Bois reflects on his deep tie to Africa,...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 259-302)
  13. Index
    (pp. 303-320)