Summary of "The Curious Case of the "New Black" by Jason Parham
Jason Parham is a senior writer at WIRED covering the intersections of pop culture. He was previously an editor at The Fader and Gawker. Originally from Los Angeles, Parham is the founder of Spook, a literary journal for emerging voices.
In April during an interview with Oprah, super producer Pharrell Williams christened himself a New Black, saying: “The New Black doesn’t blame other races for our issues. The New Black dreams and realizes that it’s not a pigmentation; it’s a mentality. And it’s either going to work for you, or it’s going to work against you. And you’ve got to pick the side you’re gonna be on.” Pharrell’s comments were met with equal parts side-eye and praise across the internet (Feminista Jones created the hilariously on-point hashtag #whatkindofblackareyou that set Twitter aflame for 24 hours). People were curious, if a bit confused. What exactly was a New Black, and who appointed Pharrell king? Then, earlier this month, actress Raven-Symone declared: “I’m tired of being labeled. I’m not an African American, I’m an American.” Many said her statement reeked of New Blackness. Once again, Twitter boomed with contempt: How dare Raven not recognize her race! Then Black-ish, the new ABC sitcom, became a thing and got people talking about what being black meant to them (the show portrays a family struggling to identify with its past while making sense of the present).
By and large, The New Black Sociologists follows in the footsteps of 1974’s pioneering text Black Sociologists: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, by tracing the organization of its forbearer in key thematic ways. This new collection of essays revisit the legacies of significant Black scholars including James E. Blackwell, William Julius Wilson, Joyce Ladner, and Mary Pattillo, but also extends coverage to include overlooked figures like Audre Lorde, Ida B. Wells, James Baldwin and August Wilson - whose lives and work have inspired new generations of Black sociologists on contemporary issues of racial segregation, feminism, religiosity, class, inequality and urban studies.