Disintegration written by Eugene Robinson (Washington Post) is a carefully drawn discussion on Black America in the 21st century. Actually, the book is an analysis of all Black people in the post civil rights era. While race in America remains an unapproachable subject that is often balanced on the razor’s edge, Robinson’s definition of race as it relates to Black America is a concise, clearly crafted study in sociology. Disintegration is a book that finally addresses the conflict of being Black in America. Robinson uses a classification and division rhetorical style to analyze what he has established as the 4 diverging paths of Blacks in America. His astute breakdown of the varying degrees within the race are presented as, the Mainstream middle class, a large Abandoned minority, a small Transcendent elite and two newly Emergent groups (mixed race and Black immigrants).
This classification and division method allows the reader to approach and understand the shift in African American society. Most books on race involve the analysis of how Whites influence Black culture through their financial and social dominance. Race in other books dwells on the past and generates emotional reactions based on frustrations with how Whites abused religion and authority in their attempt to maintain control over Blacks. Books that focus on this dynamic do less to create a discourse on race, and serve only to continue misunderstandings of both White and Black society. Robinson avoids the same ‘old’ discussions in regard to race that consist of, ‘White people bad, Black people suffered and still do’.
Robinson’s Disintegration, the title is an obvious entendre that hints at how the Black race is actually fading away from what it once was, only focuses on Blacks and how they have changed since the Civil Rights Movement. He discusses the emerging middle class that began to develop due to affirmative action. He discusses the Transcendent class of African Americans: Lawyers, doctors, professional athletes, entertainers and business owners who all have become first generation success stories and in many cases have moved to a status that rivals many White Americans. He discusses this class as still not being equal to White American’s, but this discussion does not occupy a lot of the territory. It is mentioned only to establish that although 40 years have passed and it appears that there is some semblance of the MLK dream, Blacks although more successful and with more access than in the past, still have a long way to go to attain the same status as White America. In his discussion of the Emergent class, mixed race and immigrants, the discussion has an obvious point of reference in President Obama who is of two facets of Blacks: Emergent and Transcendent. However the discussion on the Immigrants in the Emergents is the most intriguing discussion. I feel that this conversation was somewhat slighted in an attempt to maintain what the primary focus of the book is, the Abandoned. The Abandoned are the Blacks who are the poorest and least educated in the country.
The conversation about the Emergent in relation to the Abandoned creates a great discussion. Why is it that Black Immigrants (Ehtiopians, Sudanese, Nigerian, etc.) attain a better status in regard to employment and education than the Abandoned? Here are a group of people who are arriving to this country without any understanding of the society and in many instances, they do not speak the language and are not able to attain jobs that are in relation to their skills, yet they are outperfoming a group of people who have been here longer and understand the system. This topic is never fully discussed and Robinson raises the issue only to show that he is aware of how important this is. Disintegration establishes that while Black America is no longer the monolithic culture it was prior to the Civil Rights movement, that racism does still exist and that Black America is more complex than it has ever been. Eugene Robinson has created the best book on Black American society written, which is a very big statement. I think from this point forward when Black America is discussed this book will have to be referenced. If you have ever wondered what exactly is Black America, read this book now.