Friday, December 16, 2016

Book Review: We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang

Title: We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation
Author: Jeff Chang
Pages: 208 pages
Release Date: September 13th 2016
Publisher: Picador
Genre: Nonfiction; Political; African American; Race; Asian American
My Rating: 5/5

In these provocative, powerful essays acclaimed writer/journalist Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop Won’t StopWho We Be) takes an incisive and wide-ranging look at the recent tragedies and widespread protests that have shaken the country. Through deep reporting with key activists and thinkers, passionately personal writing, and distinguished cultural criticism, We Gon’ Be Alright links #BlackLivesMatter to #OscarsSoWhite, Ferguson to Washington D.C., the Great Migration to resurgent nativism. Chang explores the rise and fall of the idea of “diversity,” the roots of student protest, changing ideas about Asian Americanness, and the impact of a century of racial separation in housing. He argues that resegregation is the unexamined condition of our time, the undoing of which is key to moving the nation forward to racial justice and cultural equity.

Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, growing up Asian American, Beyoncé, #OscarsSoWhite, how the word 'diversity' has morphed into meaning "them" or a new category of otherness, how urban renewal is negro removal, how demographics have changed throughout the decades and why, etc etc. Chang throws a lot at you in this short collection on race and resegregation. This book doesn't restrict itself to events in the last few years. It spans our entire history. These essays are marvelous and pertinent to the time.

I underlined a few passages throughout the book that don't deserve to be lost on a bookshelf:

On saying you "don't see (skin)color" because you are so totally accepting:
warned against the colorblindness that becomes "myopia which masks the reality that many 'created equal' have been treated within our lifetime as inferior both by the law and by their fellow citizens."
Why denouncing the "Hands Up" narrative is irrelevant:
Later, many would debate whether Brown actually had his hands up when he was shot. Some pundits asking if the movement had been built on a lie. But that debate missed the point: the image resonated - and would continue to grow in the public imagination - because it captured a bigger truth, a deeper feeling. "Hands Up" was about the ways we saw race in post-civil rights America, and perhaps especially about what we refused to see - the blindnesses of a "post-racial" era. If, as intellectual Ruth Gilmore had written, racism was about the ways in which Blacks, whites, and others differently experienced "vulnerability to premature death," "Hands Up" was an argument for the right to live.
Why saying "all lives matter" is dumb:
Those who opposed the movement by arguing that "all lives matter" could not see the cold inhumanity of their stance. The systemic denigration of Black lives was inescapable, whether in shortened life expectancy or the growing list of extra judicial murders. In the United States, most conversations about race defaulted to a discussion about whiteness. But racism and inequality would never end if Blacks focused on easing white anxiety. Change would come only through a struggle to transform how everyone saw and treated Black lives. If Black lives mattered to all, then all lives really would matter.

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