This is an innovative work in Africana philosophical thought that links the phenomenon of nihilism in black America, in particular black American youth, to modern traditions of Western philosophy. Black Nihilism and Antiblack Racism engages defining themes of black existential life by offering a framework for considering the relationships between antiblack racism, pessimism, nihilism, weakness, strength, maturity, freedom, and hope in the 21st century. This book readdresses themes popularly raised by Cornel West in 1994 regarding the nature, causes, evaluations, diagnoses, and prognoses of what has been called, “nihilism in black America.” Black Nihilism and Antiblack Racism seeks to recontextualize discussions of nihilism and its possibilities for American cultural life. As a result, this book bears important questions, offers unique analyses, and suggests radical responses that are relevant for studies of black life and theories of justice in twenty-first century America.
Devon R. Johnson is a Professor of Instruction at the University of Tampa. He received his PhD from Temple University, and his MA and BA from Florida State University. His areas of specialization include Africana philosophy, black existentialism, and critical race theory.
Since there have been few, if any, signs of the demise of anti-Black racism in America—indeed, the cold-blooded police murder of unarmed George Floyd clearly demonstrates the opposite—what would happen if Black Americans gave up on the so-called American dream? During the Civil Rights Movement of the late-1950s and early 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. feared the growing Black Power Movement, which he called nihilism. However, many critics of King have argued over the years that Black people have become increasingly disenchanted with the unrelenting, pervasive, and increasing presence of white supremacy and antiblack racism in the existential life experiences of Black people. In Black Nihilism and Antiblack Racism, Devon Johnson presents a thoughtful and welcomed philosophical explanation, analysis, and argument of Black existential thought in response to the contemporary situation. This book demands our attention.
This book by Johnson explores how people who are the targets of anti-Black racism create value affirmations in response to the nihilistic threat white supremacy poses. The volume's central question considers what it means to affirm and value Black humanity in a society whose systems and structures fundamentally deny Black humanity. This engaging book is well worth reading. Highly recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty.
A major new contribution to existentialism—Johnson directly confronts the concept of “nihilism” defined as justifying pessimism, loss of hope for a brighter future, and a sign of a decaying civilization inclusive of the subjugated within it. Johnson offers an alternative conception of nihilism, one that foregrounds black misery, but neither succumbs to the pessimism engendered by a belief that racism is permanent—as if history has come to an end—nor does he wallow in accepting suffering as redemptive as if Christian love of one’s oppression is adequate. In this book we see how modern African America culture may very well hold the key!
Black Nihilism and Antiblack Racism is what the philosophical courage to put ‘living blackness’ at the center looks like. Devon Johnson’s compelling case for black nihilism as attitudinally valuable is a must-read for both Nietzsche scholars and for existentialists more broadly. But more significantly, it is a must-read for those committed to Black Study. How do we name our twenty-first century black struggle to value - to think ‘black’ and ‘free’ together – in the face of an enduring antiblackness? Thinking alongside a constellation of black intellectuals like Derrick Bell, Cornel West, W.E.B. DuBois, and Charles Mills (to name but a few), Johnson offers black nihilism as an answer.
What is the Black (Hu) Man? Rarely are the values that affirmatively assert this position into the world fully presented and engaged as material for philosophical thought. Devon Johnson’s Black Nihilism and Anti-Black Racism provides an invaluable philosophical resource that indicts the quotidian proclamations of Blackness as nonbeing by reclaiming deliberate and positive construction of the Black self. Rather than fatalism, Johnson’s strong Black Nihilism posits a world of creation, liberation, and revolt despite the decadence of the white supremacist reality Black people face. This is an accomplished text and a reading that will generate that momentary pause before the declaration that Blackness is slave far too many scholars have come to embrace.