Sunday, April 27, 2014

Interrogating The Making Of Black Revolutionaries By James Forman


I stumbled on The Making of Black Revolutionaries By James Forman on my last trip to Half Priced Books (my favorite place to be). The book is a 500 page beast that has been staring at me from my bookshelf for the last two months. I did not know who James Forman was or his role in Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Black Panthers and the struggle for civil rights and human rights. I'm goofy I picked up the book because the title was cool. Absolutely, revolutionaries are made! Revolutionaries aren't born in trees cocooned in red flags! Revolutionaries carve themselves out by reading, struggling and writing. Forman's thesis is clear revolutionaries are made and he is in the business of making revolutionaries.

The book is broken into 65 chapters where Forman tells the story of his' childhood, service in the air force, time in college, work with SNCC, attempts to build a coalition between SNCC and the Black Panthers, and the rational behind retiring from SNCC. Through these segments I learned about a side of the civil rights movement that had been denied to me by my high school education. What I did not fully realize until I was half way through this book was the scale of the civil rights movement. Forman's attention to detailing out the each campaign and the process in which it was organized is great fodder for political study. What I most appreciated about this book is that Forman is unabashed atheist and a communist. The political and personal analysis he presents are deep and nuanced.

White people rarely inspect their own whiteness, and when confronted with the possibility that their skin may mean something structurally they tend to become agitated. I mean I get it, there is emotional safety in foreclosing oneself to the possibility for interracial empathy. On the other hand, American minorities are compelled to confront what their skin means for others on a daily basis. I believe it is only through engaging with radical difference can approach a critical understanding of who we are and how we fit into the world. James Forman's The Making Of Black Revolutionaries chops through the structures of economic and ideological like a chainsaw.
If you are white (and even if you are not, but especially if you are), I dare you to read this book.

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