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Barbershops, Bibles, and BET

Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought

Melissa Victoria Harris-Lacewell
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 368
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  • Book Info
    Barbershops, Bibles, and BET
    Book Description:

    What is the best way to understand black political ideology? Just listen to the everyday talk that emerges in public spaces, suggests Melissa Harris-Lacewell. And listen this author has--to black college students talking about the Million Man March and welfare, to Southern, black Baptists discussing homosexuality in the church, to black men in a barbershop early on a Saturday morning, to the voices of hip-hop music and Black Entertainment Television.

    Using statistical, experimental, and ethnographic methodsBarbershops, Bibles, and B.E.Toffers a new perspective on the way public opinion and ideologies are formed at the grassroots level. The book makes an important contribution to our understanding of black politics by shifting the focus from the influence of national elites in opinion formation to the influence of local elites and people in daily interaction with each other. Arguing that African Americans use community dialogue to jointly develop understandings of their collective political interests, Harris-Lacewell identifies four political ideologies that constitute the framework of contemporary black political thought: Black Nationalism, Black Feminism, Black Conservatism and Liberal Integrationism. These ideologies, the book posits, help African Americans to understand persistent social and economic inequality, to identify the significance of race in that inequality, and to devise strategies for overcoming it.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3660-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)

    Zeno named his mule Toussaint L’Overture to honor the great Haitian revolutionary. A married father of three and a former marine, Zeno now makes his living driving a mule-drawn carriage for the tourists in New Orleans’s French Quarter. It’s a job that rewards funny, informative characters who use rhymes, songs, and humor to cajole tourists to ride. Even among this animated lot, Zeno is a personality. He is working on a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Orleans and fancies himself a serious historian with a particular commitment to the stories and perspectives of black people, so he reserves...

  7. CHAPTER ONE Everyday Talk and Ideology
    (pp. 1-34)

    Black people come together to worship; organize around communal problems; sit together to cut and style one another’s hair; pass news about each other through oral and written networks; and use music, style, and humor to communicate with each other. Along with the intimacies of family and the responsibilities of work, these are the everyday spaces of black people’s lives. Yet, with the exception of the church, these everyday contexts of black interactions have largely escaped the notice of social scientists studying the politics of black communities. To more fully appreciate the political thought and action of African Americans, it...

  8. CHAPTER TWO Ideology in Action: The Promise of Orange Grove
    (pp. 35-78)

    Reverend Kenney said “she.” He was preaching about the Holy Spirit and he said “she.” Despite the male-centered traditions of the black Baptist Church, which soundly reject the notion that God in any form could be a woman, Reverend Kenney had in fact referred to the Holy Spirit as feminine. No one in the congregation seemed ruffled or upset. Everyone was still at rapt attention, taking sermon notes and punctuating Reverend Kenney’s sentences with “Amen.” Everytime I thought the minister had pushed the congregation as far as they would go, he went a little further. I scribbled his comment down...

  9. CHAPTER THREE Black Talk, Black Thought: Evidence in National Data
    (pp. 79-109)

    In the presidential election of 1936, African Americans realigned their partisan affiliation from Republican to Democrat, offering Roosevelt more than 60 percent of the black vote in cities like Philadelphia, New York, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati (Weiss 1983). Democratic partisanship in African American voting has endured and deepened in the decades since that critical election. The strength and durability of black Democratic voting affiliation has led many observers of American political behavior to assume that there is no variation to explain in black public opinion. “The relative homogeneity of black public opinion has been generally considered one of the few certainties...

  10. CHAPTER FOUR Policing Conservatives, Believing Feminists: Reactions to Unpopular Ideologies in Everyday Black Talk
    (pp. 110-161)

    The two statements above are a glimpse into the diversity of political thought among African Americans. Both statements were made by African American women, of about the same age, who attend the same college. While these two students are similar in many respects, they have very different views of the political world. The first student assesses black inequality in America as a result of continuing racial bigotry. The second places the blame on the shoulders of African Americans. How these two black students came to express such divergent political attitudes is the subject of this chapter.

    Much of the research...

  11. CHAPTER FIVE Truth and Soul: Black Talk in the Barbershop
    (pp. 162-203)
    Quincy T. Mills

    Damon had just finished cutting a customer’s hair and was sitting in the chair a few feet away. The shop was quiet and I was sitting near the opened door trying to catch a breeze. “So, have you learned anything yet,” Damon asked me, “after a couple of days at the shop, what have you learned so far?” I had been hanging out at Truth and Soul for less than a week, but already I had learned a lot. Listening to the buzzing conversations, I had learned that Hajj was not only the shop’s owner but its heart, the animating...

  12. CHAPTER SIX Speaking to, Speaking for, Speaking with: Black Ideological Elites
    (pp. 204-249)

    Like Lane’sPolitical Ideology, this book is about the political attitudes of the common person. It is not primarily a history of black political ideologies, nor an exploration of elite discourse. It is about how men and women use their everyday lives to inform their politics. But linking the ideas and dialogue of ordinary folks to the discourse of public figures is a useful way to illuminate the politics of everyday talk. This linkage is the task of this chapter. It examines the contours of the four ideologies by providing examples of black public figures in the late twentieth century...

  13. CHAPTER SEVEN Everyday Black Talk at the Turn of the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. 250-264)

    In the fall of 2002 the politics of everyday black talk came crashing into public consciousness. At the national level the controversy over the movieBarbershoprevealed the centrality of everyday black talk to African American politics and offered a national audience a front row seat on the internal contestations in African American thought. Harry Belafonte’s public criticism of Colin Powell highlighted the diversity in black ideological approaches, questioned the limits of Powell’s Conservative appeal, and reasserted the prevalence of cultural tropes in the ideological battle for black mass opinion. At a more local level, Reverend Kenney was ousted from...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 265-286)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 287-312)
  16. Index
    (pp. 313-339)