ISBN-10:
0674025717
ISBN-13:
9780674025714
Pub. Date:
09/15/2007
Publisher:
Harvard
We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity

We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity

by Tommie ShelbyTommie Shelby
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Overview

African American history resounds with calls for black unity. From abolitionist times through the Black Power movement, it was widely seen as a means of securing a full share of America's promised freedom and equality. Yet today, many believe that black solidarity is unnecessary, irrational, rooted in the illusion of "racial" difference, at odds with the goal of integration, and incompatible with liberal ideals and American democracy. A response to such critics, 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, and he urges us to rethink many traditional conceptions of what black unity should entail. In this way, he contributes significantly to the larger effort to re-envision black politics and to modernize the objectives and strategies of black freedom struggles for the post-civil rights era. His book articulates a new African American political philosophy—one that rests firmly on anti-essentialist foundations and, at the same time, urges a commitment to defeating racism, to eliminating racial inequality, and to improving the opportunities of those racialized as "black."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674025714
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/15/2007
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,062,280
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)

About the Author

Tommie Shelby is Caldwell Titcomb Professor of African and African American Studies and of Philosophy at Harvard University.

Read an Excerpt

Preface
Can black political solidarity lead to a more just society and world? If so, what form must it take to produce this result? These are the questions that drive this book. Historically, political unity among black Americans has contributed much to the cause of social justice. It was essential to the abolition of chattel slavery. It was instrumental in bringing down Jim Crow segregation. It played a crucial role in the establishment of constitutional and legislative guarantees of equal civil rights for all citizens. But now, in what has come to be dubbed the "post-civil rights era," does black political solidarity have any purpose to serve? Many people, including a growing number of blacks, would answer with a resounding no. But my answer is yes, and in this book I offer my reasoning. I believe that black political unity still has an important role to play in making our society, and perhaps our world, a more just one, though the role it should play today differs from what many in the history of black political thought have envisioned. We Who Are Dark is a philosophical rumination on the current significance of black political solidarity.

Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction: Political Philosophy and the Black Experience

1. Two Conceptions of Black Nationalism

2. Class, Poverty, and Shame

3. Black Power Nationalism

4. Black Solidarity after Black Power

5. Race, Culture, and Politics

6. Social Identity and Group Solidarity

Conclusion: The Political Morality of Black Solidarity

Notes

Index

What People are Saying About This

As an interdisciplinary enterprise, African-American studies is thriving, but philosophy's contribution has until recently been next to non-existent. The field's image is still an overwhelmingly "white" one--a discipline that has nothing to say about the specific concerns of blacks. Tommie Shelby's book, addressing as it does a long-standing set of issues in the black tradition, is a welcome proof of the subject's relevance and importance for African-American interests. Employing the apparatus of contemporary analytic philosophy with rigor, sophistication, and the use of a remarkable range of sources, he sets out to defend a qualified version of the classic black nationalist thesis that a distinctive "black" politics predicated on black solidarity is morally and politically justifiable. Not only does he succeed splendidly in this task, but he provides in the process a model of how the "unwhitening" of philosophy can eventually be achieved.

K. Anthony Appiah

Shelby's aim is to show that one can achieve a robust form of black solidarity without a commitment to black identity. He identifies robust solidarity as entailing: identification between group members, shared values or goals, group loyalty and mutual trust. I think the arguments that he offers that all these elements of robust solidarity are possible without the sort of distinctive black identity required by collective identity theory are compelling. This is important, because many people take it for granted that the pursuit of solidarity entails the need for identity. In articulating the necessary analytic distinctions, Shelby makes the kind of contribution that I believe is characteristic of the most useful philosophical interventions in African American studies (and in many other fields): he shows that there is conceptual space for more options than the current debate presupposes.
K. Anthony Appiah, author of The Ethics of Identity

Charles W. Mills

As an interdisciplinary enterprise, African-American studies is thriving, but philosophy's contribution has until recently been next to non-existent. The field's image is still an overwhelmingly "white" one--a discipline that has nothing to say about the specific concerns of blacks. Tommie Shelby's book, addressing as it does a long-standing set of issues in the black tradition, is a welcome proof of the subject's relevance and importance for African-American interests. Employing the apparatus of contemporary analytic philosophy with rigor, sophistication, and the use of a remarkable range of sources, he sets out to defend a qualified version of the classic black nationalist thesis that a distinctive "black" politics predicated on black solidarity is morally and politically justifiable. Not only does he succeed splendidly in this task, but he provides in the process a model of how the "unwhitening" of philosophy can eventually be achieved.
Charles W. Mills, author of The Racial Contract

Preface

Preface Can black political solidarity lead to a more just society and world? If so, what form must it take to produce this result? These are the questions that drive this book. Historically, political unity among black Americans has contributed much to the cause of social justice. It was essential to the abolition of chattel slavery. It was instrumental in bringing down Jim Crow segregation. It played a crucial role in the establishment of constitutional and legislative guarantees of equal civil rights for all citizens. But now, in what has come to be dubbed the "post–civil rights era," does black political solidarity have any purpose to serve? Many people, including a growing number of blacks, would answer with a resounding no. But my answer is yes, and in this book I offer my reasoning. I believe that black political unity still has an important role to play in making our society, and perhaps our world, a more just one, though the role it should play today differs from what many in the history of black political thought have envisioned. We Who Are Dark is a philosophical rumination on the current significance of black political solidarity.

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