Black Speech

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The world seems divided into those who regard such terms as race and diversity as important and those who blithely let them go by. Most of the former seem to be employed by nonprofit universities that are more effective than profit-making corporations at intimidating employee vocabulary. Having done my M.A. thesis some four decades ago on “Politics in the Negro Novel in America” (a thesis that subsequently appeared as a book with an adjectival epithet that was more up to date), I find myself having moved from the first universe to the second, thinking that the ultimate goal is the elimination of racial categories from American speech.

As soon as a word for any racial category appears under my eyes, I tend to skip ahead. Recognizing that bias, I now fear that some possible readers for my “Politics in the African- American Novel in America” (1991) might miss my elaborate analyses of fiction by Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright. Dammit.

Of the very few issues about which I’ve changed my mind over the past decades, this is perhaps the most serious.

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