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Dreaming Blackness: Black Nationalism and African American Public Opinion

Melanye T. Price
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Dreaming Blackness
    Book Description:

    Black Nationalism is one of the oldest and most enduring ideological constructs developed by African Americans to make sense of their social and political worlds. In Dreaming Blackness, Melanye T. Price explores the current understandings of Black Nationalism among African Americans, providing a balanced and critical view of today's black political agenda. She argues that Black Nationalism continues to enjoy moderate levels of support by most black citizens but has a more difficult time gaining a larger stronghold because of increasing diversity among blacks and a growing emphasis on individualism over collective struggle. She shows that black interests are a dynamic negotiation among various interested groups and suggests that those differences are not just important for the "black agenda" but also for how African Americans think and dialogue about black political questions daily.Using a mix of everyday talk and impressive statistical data to explain contemporary black opinions, Price highlights the ways in which Black Nationalism works in a "post-racial" society. Ultimately, Price offers a multilayered portrait of African American political opinions, providing a new understanding of race specific ideological views and their impact on African Americans, persuasively illustrating that Black Nationalism is an ideology that scholars and politicians should not dismiss.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6845-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    In the summer after I completed middle school, I got on a school bus everyday and traveled for an hour each way to one of the most prestigious private schools in Houston for a math and science program. During those rides, my friends and I traded stories, frustrations (of having to go to volunteer summer school), gossip, and music. On one of those many trips, my classmate Travis insisted that we all listen to his new rap tape, which he assured us would rock our worlds. The group, shouting over heavy bass lines and guitar licks, turned out to be...

  5. 1 Reconciling Race and Nation: Black Nationalism and African American Political Opinion
    (pp. 19-30)

    Black Nationalism as an ideology is a race-centered, self-deterministic view of black politics. As Malcolm X (Shabazz 1989b [1965]) succinctly states, “The political philosophy of black nationalism means that the black man should control the politics and the politicians in his own community; no more.” InDreaming Blackness, one is categorized as Black Nationalist based on support for four principles that buttress all support for Black Nationalism. First, all Black Nationalists support black self-determination. For them it is vital that African Americans be able to exert control over the institutions that define their world. Some Black Nationalists have asserted that...

  6. 2 Beyond Martin and Malcolm: Ordinary Citizens Talk about the Civil Rights Legacy and Community Problems
    (pp. 31-58)

    Fairview Pines is a lot like many other neighborhoods in urban America. It is an enclave of middle-class blacks in the central city who have managed to eke out a few fragile blocks of manicured lawns, minivans, and community pride. Walk more than four or five blocks in any direction and you are squarely among the urban poor—entrenched, disconnected, and often undesirable as neighbors. Over the years and across geographic space, neighborhoods like Fairview Pines have been referred to as “Sugar Hill,” “Black Beverly Hills,” and many other names that denote their wealth and separateness from both poor blacks...

  7. 3 Rights and Resistance: Mapping the Terrain of Black Nationalist Adherence
    (pp. 59-79)

    Thus far,Dreaming Blacknesshas elucidated the guiding principles and scholarly theories regarding Black Nationalism and characterized the structure and tone of the group discussions. Here, I return to my original argument that African Americans’ ideological positions related to the appropriate relationship between the black community and the larger American society shape their overall political views. For blacks, their race and racial group membership play central roles in many areas of life. Essentially, the unspoken question that African Americans find themselves asking is, Should they as individuals and as a collective try to incorporate themselves into the larger (and mostly...

  8. 4 The New Old School Blame Game: Blame Attribution and Ideology among African Americans
    (pp. 80-102)

    From the previous two chapters we have seen how ordinary citizens consider political questions and draw political conclusions. How can the increasing achievement gap between blacks and whites be explained? Why has the American dream remained beyond the grasp of most African Americans despite civil rights gains? Often with whites as the main comparison group, though there were others (new immigrants, Latinos, Asian Americans), these were the types of questions participants were using to evaluate black progress. As they assessed the topography of the political landscape and were able to see (from their perspective) challenges and opportunities available to them...

  9. 5 The Measure and Meaning of Black Nationalism
    (pp. 103-126)

    Conversations about race and politics are often shaped by the context in which they take place. The important events of the day and the background of the individuals involved all strongly influence the subjects addressed and the tone of the discussion. To be sure, Keesha’s vehement support for Black Nationalism may have invoked different responses and explanations had it not been expressed among a group of African American women sitting around her dining room table or if white or Latina women were present. Despite possible differences the changed context would make, closer examination of Keesha’s group and others allows us...

  10. 6 Black Nationalism and Its Consequences
    (pp. 127-149)

    Mobilization around Black Nationalism has almost always paralleled organization building and an attempt at developing an intraracial infrastructure. Whether it was through the organized African expeditions supported by black separatists in the 1850s and 1860s, Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in the 1920s, or the Republic of New Africa in 1970s, Black Nationalists have mobilized ordinary citizens around ideals that are heavily coupled with focused action. Additionally, because of its focus on demonstrating and practicing self-reliance, self-help, and self-determination, Black Nationalism is equal parts ideology and action plan. Therefore, African American subscription to Black Nationalism should be borne out...

  11. 7 Dreaming Blackness: Making Sense of Support or Rejection of Separatism
    (pp. 150-161)

    In chapter 2 I began with the opening exercise of the focus group discussion; here I move to the concluding exercise of those same discussions. This exercise, which I called “Dreaming Blackness,” was a way to get participants to think about and focus on what it would mean if a self-determining black nation was actually achieved. They were probed to talk about an all-black America, which did not require the rejection of American democratic principles or traditions. Nor did it require participants to take a position on emigration or speculate about potential destinations. This diminished the potential for their disagreement...

  12. 8 Conclusion: Black Nationalism at the Post–Civil Rights Crossroads
    (pp. 162-172)

    On the eve of the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president of the United States, took the stage for his official nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The inability of the federal government to help stranded black citizens in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina led many blacks to question the gains made in the previous decades. To a large extent, the Katrina event and Obama’s nomination and ultimate victory embody the paradox of blacks’ relationship to the United States. Three years after a particularly low moment for the nation, and especially...

  13. Afterword: Black Power? A Note about Black Nationalism, Barack Obama, and the Future of Black Politics
    (pp. 173-180)

    The 2008 presidential election represents a watershed moment in American political development. The same nation that at its founding saw humans of African descent as chattel to be bought and sold like livestock elected a citizen of African descent to be its forty-fourth president. Barack Obama’s importance as a racial signpost for American progress cannot be denied: whether that progress is symbolic or substantive is an open question. In light of Obama’s victory, it is important to discuss the ways in which the findings ofDreaming Blacknesscan inform the impact of his election on the future of African American...

  14. Appendix A: Focus Group Characteristics
    (pp. 181-184)
  15. Appendix B: NBES Survey Questions and Descriptive Statistics
    (pp. 185-192)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 193-202)
  17. References
    (pp. 203-218)
  18. Index
    (pp. 219-225)
  19. About the Author
    (pp. 226-226)