In order to redirect some traffic to the blog and fill up some space with my current waning interest in the political currents of the day, I have decided to repost the significant content of The Race Man's Home Companion into Cobb. Much of this was written several years ago and may need some updating. If I feel it needs tweaking I will do so but the original website will remain intact.
I began the Race Man's Home Companion in 1995. Here is the original introduction:
about the home companion
"The fundamental role of the public intellectual - distinct from, yet building on, the indispensable work of academics, experts, analysts, and pundits - is to create and sustain high-quality public discourse addressing urgent public problems which enlightens and energizes fellow citizens, prompting them to take public action."
-- Cornel West, 1996
the race man's home companion is an exposition of my own evolved positions on the important questions regarding race in america. i have taken a great deal of time in arriving at these positions because of what i interpret as an historical imperative for my generation, and because of my own experience and personality. this investigation has gone far beyond what i have required for my own individual achievement and has resulted in a body of knowlege which i beleive stands as a lesson for all americans. my desire to improve the quality of public citizenship in this nation, as i am inspried to do by my historical imperative, results in this instructional artifact in the context of the cool zone.
since this is not for me an abstract exercise in moral reasoning, i cannot separate the findings of this investigation from my own questions of identity and social position. if we are to accept the premise of equality, then the actions of equality pose challenges in a society which daily demonstrates its contempt for equality. as an instigator of these actions i need to understand what i am doing, as a race man, as an american citizen and as an individual. as witnesses to these actions we all need to understand and evaluate with some shared principles and expectations. it is not as simple as 'little black girls and little white girls' sitting in a fairy ring.
clearly, none of this comes naturally, but civic life in america demands that at some point we look closer. thus we all have different circumstances and motivations for taking up -- from time to time or as a lifelong committment -- the mantle of the race man.
as a race man, i began with a basic understanding of the idea of nobility which is grounded in my black identity. blackness for me is a cultural expression, not a racial one. so my motivation to be proud of this cultural heritage must be separate that from the racial identity that is not of my choosing. i have a unique opportunity, by dint of my own experience, and because of my own need for a complete understanding, to create and share my insights and create an evolving space for those who feel, as i do, that the tasks of the race man are not ever complete.
what america needs is a clear and present anti-racist politics. since this is a democracy, that means that citizens must understand the finer points of the issue and be able to develop a praxis. a praxis is a combination of thoughts and deeds which are consistent to a philosophical position. it means talking the talk and walking the walk. the home companion is designed to develop in american citizens, anti-racist praxis. anyone who has developed for themselves a well thought out anti-racist praxis would be squarely in the tradition of the race man. i envision the home companion as a focal point for that struggle, as well.
the home companion is just that. it is not a phrasebook that you can take to the streets so that you can order up a taco in 'politically correct' language. it is to be studied and reviewed, referred to and crically evaluated. any american citizen who takes the ideas of social justice with some seriousness should find the home companion as a valuable reference. i will constantly refine it and although its expression may change over time, its disposition is fixed as is the race man's commitment to the moral purposes and practices of anti-racism.
as a footnote, understand that my womanist friends know i have no apologies to make for my choice of terminology. a race man is as a race man does. those who prefer an equivalent term will certainly do so, and need no further assistance from me.
M.D.C.Bowen - May 1995
I have said more recently that I despair of a shared commitment to anti-racist praxis in the mainstream. I believe that the overwhelming majority of American do not wish to be considered racist, nor to be considered crusaders against racists. People are basically trying to keep their heads down and not get caught in the crossfire, which might be an adequate strategy for food fights, but not one that is admirable in this stream of American history. It is much too important to the cause of liberty that Americans cop-out. I have come to regard the equilibrium of racial justice to be relatively satisfactory given that neither side is engaged in substantial work. But it leads to the facile conclusion that racism itself is defeated. It is not.
I say racism is isolated, but it is just as virulent as ever. However the strains we battle, this offensive comment by this or that celebrity, are weak and nowhere near deadly. But the complacency and elan with which we beat down such gaffes are insufficient to handle more serious racism, and America is quite susceptible to the kind of racism Europe has shown recurrent in its history.
We Americans are fortunate to support a Constitution that shows no respect for race and are stronger for having endured great battles over the rights of racial minorities as well as having had great thinkers tackle the problems of race. But like all hard-won liberties they cannot be taken for granted, and people must substantially understand and defend them from a deep philosophical standpoint. This deep understanding and defense of anti-racist principle is what I have aimed to achieve and I hope that the artifacts of my writing are testaments to that passion for freedom which is the birthright of all mankind.
And so with all that, I will from time to time, reintroduce the substance of the Race Man's Home Companion into this blog under the new category 'Race Man'.