Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Vincent W. Lloyd's "Black Dignity"

Vincent W. Lloyd is associate professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University. His books include Black Natural Law and the coedited Race and Secularism in America. He coedits the journal Political Theology.

Lloyd applied the "Page 99 Test" to his new book, Black Dignity: The Struggle against Domination, and reported the following:
From page 99:
What of counter-histories, histories from below, histories of struggle against domination? [These] are best understood as tactical interventions in a domain controlled by the forces of domination. They are a means of gathering arms for the present struggle, motivated by the needs of the present struggle. If such histories aspire to more, if they aim to provide grand narratives of the oppressed, their readers forget that these histories, too, are con­taminated by domination.
Each of the main chapters of Black Dignity is named after a hashtag that animates the Black Lives Matter movement. Page 99 of Black Dignity comes in the chapter on #BlackFutures. As a work of what my publisher calls “observational philosophy,” Black Dignity starts with the language and practices of a social movement, and then it fills in the moral vision guiding the movement.

One observation I made is that the language of hope circulates much less around racial justice activism today than it did at the time of the civil rights movement. Instead of talking about hope, activists talk about “futures.” My chapter explores what this could mean and how conjuring futures differs from hoping. I argue that the optimism of the civil rights era has been exhausted, and the future-directed thought of today’s racial justice movement does not envision any path from our present world to a world of racial equality. Therefore, discussing a world of racial equality requires different genres than prose: poetry, song, and even prayer.

Given that distinctive stance toward the future, how does the moral vision of Black Lives Matter approach the past? This is what I am exploring on page 99. I worry about attempts to romanticize Black history or past movements for racial justice. I also worry about attempts to approach the past neutrally, supposedly presenting just the facts. Instead of these approaches, I argue that we ought to be oriented toward the past by our current struggles against domination, and we ought to use a rigorous engagement with the past as a tactic to advance these struggles.

While page 99 explores a quite particular set of issues – and rather more abstract ones that the book as a whole is concerned with – it does offer a taste of the approach and themes of Black Dignity.
Learn more about Black Dignity at the Yale University Press website.

The Page 99 Test: Black Natural Law.

--Marshal Zeringue