In Racial Realism and the History of Black People in America, Lori Latrice Martin demonstrates how racial realism is a key concept for understanding why and how black people continue to live between a cycle of optimism and disappointment in the United States. Central to her argument is Derrick Bell’s work on racial realism, who argued that the subordination of black people in America is permanent. Racial Realism includes historical topics, such as Reconstruction, race in the 20th century, and recent events like #BlackLivesMatter, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the killing of George Floyd. As the author lays out, at various times in American history, black people felt a sense of hopefulness and optimism that America would finally extend treasured American values to them only to find themselves marginalized. History shows that black people have had their expectations raised so many times only to find themselves deeply disappointed.
Lori Latrice Martin is associate dean in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and professor in the Department of African and African American Studies at Louisiana State University.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: The Genius of Derrick Bell: Racial Realism
Chapter Two: 40 Acres and a Mule and Other Missed Opportunities
Chapter Three: The Myth of the Greatest Generation
Chapter Four: (Un) Civil Rights and Black Power
Chapter Five: Promises Unfulfilled: Black Lives Matter Chatter
Martin takes inspiration from legal scholar Derrick Bell’s work on racial realism to argue that Black people throughout history have been, in her words, “duped” into believing that the US can fundamentally change, and thus they can alter their position of racial subordination (p. 1). As Martin argues, that position is permanent and the sooner Black people recognize this reality, the more peace and agency they will achieve and the less disappointment they will experience. They can subsequently channel their energy in more productive ways, such as into exposing the US's symbolic, rather than substantive, promises to change to mitigate embarrassment on the world stage. Underscoring the permanence of African Americans’ subordinate status, Martin cites studies that document racial disparities—both past and present—in education, sports, wealth, and health, including those stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Martin insists that her position is not pessimistic but realistic, albeit largely unpopular. Indeed, in her analysis, preeminent civil rights and Black Power activists like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Kwame Ture were wrong about the US, while Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam is right. Recommended. General readers.
This book provides a necessary and timely review of the literature on how structural and institutional oppression continue to operate and diminish opportunities of the American dream for many Black people. The present day discussions and facts noted provide critical insights into our subconscious as a country and our belief in equity and access for all.
Dr. Lori Martin provides a powerful overview of American history while debunking myths along the way for Black Americans. This book provides concrete evidence of Black people in America as a minority group that has endured systematic racism, discrimination, and marginalization, mostly as a result of U.S. legislation and policy. The book is multidisciplinary, drawing on insights and approaches from history, sociology, critical race studies, African American Studies, and criminal justice. Undergraduate, graduates, and scholars will find this book educational and valuable, especially in today’s color blinded society.
2/23/22, The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: This book was featured in a list of “Recent Books of Interest to African American Scholars.”