Should black people be seen as a single race?


A popular narrative in both liberal and conservative media following Barack Obama\’s election in 2008 was that of a \”post-racial\” society, one in which any person regardless of race, could achieve the American dream.

While few black people believed this myth, many black thinkers, writers, and journalists seemed to go into an existential crisis about the current state of black America.  Charles Johnson wrote about the \”End of the Black American Narrative,\” Touré questioned what \”Post-Blackness\” meant, and Eugene Robinson offered a perspective of four distinct groupings of black America in his 2010 book Disintegration.

Robinson\’s groupings of black America are separated by \”demography, geography and psychology.\” He names them as,

    • the “Mainstream middle-class majority with a full ownership stake in American society,”
    • an “Abandoned minority with less hope of escaping poverty and dysfunction than at any time since Reconstruction’s crushing end
    • a “Transcendent elite with such enormous wealth, power and influence that even white folks have to genuflect”
    • And an “Emergent” group of mixed-race people and black immigrants “that make us wonder what ‘black’ is even supposed to mean.” 

The language Robinson uses can be dramatic at times as he writes about societal forces like integration and trickle-down economics \”tearing black America to pieces,\” but I think he offers a clear-eyed analysis of how black people can lead vastly different lives today.

I think this observation is critical to conversations about public policies that journalists will lazily state as \”helping black people.\” These claims inaccurately give the idea that certain policies are hand-outs to all black people and that all black people are in need of help, when the majority of people who benefit from programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families(TANF) and Medicaid are white.

I recommend the book for anyone wanting to learn more about the current state of Black America.


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