Friday, February 26, 2016

The Condemnation of Blackness by Khalil Gibran Muhammad


Day twenty-six of African American nonfiction features The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad. 


Lynch mobs, chain gangs, and popular views of black southern criminals that defined the Jim Crow South are well known. We know less about the role of the urban North in shaping views of race and crime in American society.

Following the 1890 census, the first to measure the generation of African Americans born after slavery, crime statistics, new migration and immigration trends, and symbolic references to America as the promised land of opportunity were woven into a cautionary tale about the exceptional threat black people posed to modern urban society. Excessive arrest rates and overrepresentation in northern prisons were seen by many whites--liberals and conservatives, northerners and southerners--as indisputable proof of blacks' inferiority. In the heyday of "separate but equal," what else but pathology could explain black failure in the "land of opportunity"?

The idea of black criminality was crucial to the making of modern urban America, as were African Americans' own ideas about race and crime. Chronicling the emergence of deeply embedded notions of black people as a dangerous race of criminals by explicit contrast to working-class whites and European immigrants, this fascinating book reveals the influence such ideas have had on urban development and social policies. 

2 comments:

  1. An eye-opening and equally informative book I vet as a companion to this one is"The Invention of the White Race" by Theodore W. Allen. This like the other, shows how Blacks are manipulated to always not quite achieve the "American Dream," to be the necessary "Boogeyman" to make others feel good about themselves. The most scary thing I picked up from the book in your review is, many immigrant groups came to this land and where part of organized crime to "protect" their communities. But after doing about a 100 years of time, they (Irish, Italian) were "permitted" to become "White" or seen as "White" (code for civilized). That can never be for Blacks and anyone of darker skin because they do not share surface Whiteness no matter how far removed from crime they might be. Hence the need for permanent "underdog classes."

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I am not familiar with the book by Allen, but I am going to look it up right away. My TBR list just keeps growing!

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