About

Columbia University Press Pinterest

Twitter

Facebook

CUP Web site

RSS Feed

New Books

Author Interviews

Author Events

Keep track of new CUP book releases:
e-newsletters

For media inquiries, please contact our
publicity department

CUP Authors Blogs and Sites

American Society of Magazine Editors

Leonard Cassuto

Mike Chasar / Poetry and Popular Culture

Erica Chenoweth / "Rational Insurgent"

Juan Cole

Jenny Davidson / "Light Reading"

Faisal Devji

William Duggan

James Fleming / Atmosphere: Air, Weather, and Climate History Blog

David Harvey

Paul Harvey / "Religion in American History"

Bruce Hoffman

Alexander Huang

David K. Hurst / The New Ecology of Leadership

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh

Geoffrey Kabat / "Hyping Health Risks"

Grzegorz W. Kolodko / "Truth, Errors, and Lies"

Jerelle Kraus

Julia Kristeva

Michael LaSala / Gay and Lesbian Well-Being (Psychology Today)

David Leibow / The College Shrink

Marc Lynch / "Abu Aardvark"

S. J. Marshall

Michael Mauboussin

Noelle McAfee

The Measure of America

Philip Napoli / Audience Evolution

Paul Offit

Frederick Douglass Opie / Food as a Lens

Jeffrey Perry

Mari Ruti / The Juicy Bits

Marian Ronan

Michael Sledge

Jacqueline Stevens / States without Nations

Ted Striphas / The Late Age of Print

Charles Strozier / 9/11 after Ten Years

Hervé This

Alan Wallace

James Igoe Walsh / Back Channels

Xiaoming Wang

Santiago Zabala

Press Blogs

AAUP

University of Akron

University of Alberta

American Management Association

Baylor University

Beacon Broadside

University of California

Cambridge University Press

University of Chicago

Cork University

Duke University

University of Florida

Fordham University Press

Georgetown University

University of Georgia

Harvard University

Harvard Educational Publishing Group

University of Hawaii

Hyperbole Books

University of Illinois

Island Press

Indiana University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Kentucky

Louisiana State University

McGill-Queens University Press

Mercer University

University of Michigan

University of Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society

University of Mississippi

University of Missouri

MIT

University of Nebraska

University Press of New England

University of North Carolina

University Press of North Georgia

NYU / From the Square

University of Oklahoma

Oregon State University

University of Ottawa

Oxford University

Penn State University

University of Pennsylvania

Princeton University

Stanford University

University of Sydney

University of Syracuse

Temple University

University of Texas

Texas A&M University

University of Toronto

University of Virginia

Wilfrid Laurier University

Yale University

May 16th, 2008 at 9:27 am

An Interview with Houston Baker in Diverse Magazine

Houston Baker, Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Right MovementInterest in Houston Baker’s Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Movement continues as evidenced by the interview he gave to Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. You can hear or read the interview.

In the interview, Houston Baker talks about his decision to write Betrayal, the difference between Black neoconservatives and black centrists, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a “race man. He also cites scholars such as Manning Marable, Angela Davis, Lani Guinier, and Adolph Reed as scholars whose work remains accountable to the needs of the black community.

Much has been made of the book’s critiques of Henry Louis Gates, Cornel West, and Michael Eric Dyson. In this excerpt, Baker clarifies his concern with their work:

The centrists, to my mind, are the people—and I have given some notion of that in what I said earlier—are brilliant, brilliant intellectuals. I mean, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., for example, has written unarguably the best book on literary and cultural matters in Afro-America in the last 30 years or so. Cornel West is an incredible philosopher. And pragmatism is something that he has unutterably altered by his work. (Georgetown University’s) Michael Eric Dyson is an incredibly brilliant and learned man.

The reason I talk about those individuals, such as those three—Gates, West and Dyson—as centrists is because they have given up their best critical labors, which would lead to the production of a book. And a book, I define as a production that has accountability; that has an abundance of evidence; that has a scholarly dedication to bringing forth the truth and to changing a discipline in ways that will bring a new understanding of African-American life and culture.

When I look at books from Professor West like Race Matters, I don’t find those criteria satisfied. When I look at a book like The Future of the Race by Professors Gates and West, I don’t find those criteria satisfied. And when I look at Michael Eric Dyson’s work Between God and Gangsta Rap or Come Hell of High Water or I May Not Get There With You (it’s evident that) he’s a prolific writer, but these books are more anecdotal thought pieces. They often have a provocative cast to them as when he suggests we might look at (Dr. Martin Luther) King’s lapses of ethics or morality and on the basis of those lapses equate with those gangsta rappers in the United States of America—which produced from one of my graduate students the exclamation ‘does any group in the world judge its leaders, or choose them, by their worst tendencies?’

So I think the work is sensationalistic in some instances; in other instances, they are too simplistic. And they seem designed to say to a particular audience—in the case of Michael Eric Dyson, I think it’s a middle-class Black audience—you can read me and you can see that this is pretending to be a critique of gangsta rap and Dr. King, but it’s really kind of a moralizing almost sermonic, anecdotal pamphlet. The same is, I think, in some measure true of Cornel West’s Race Matters.

So, the centrists are people who say, ‘I’m going to speak honestly, fully and scholastically to the best of my ability to you about race in ways that will be productive for race relations, and perhaps to the Black majority.’ And then what they often give is, in some instances, stand-up comedy.

Post a comment