The issues raised by the black movements in the USA have been relevant, and their initiatives have been needed. However, the question of where these ideas come from has not been covered. Partially, the reason for this was the fact that the majority of people, first of all, think of political or social movements where ideas may be born. However, in her book, Harris-Lacewell shows that initiative often comes from ordinary people and is born in debates and talks. Having chosen talks as a source of analysis, Harris-Lacewell gave birth to a new way of thinking, where visible results become the aftermath of private talks between the people.
To better understand Harris-Lacewell’s message, it is essential to analyze the concepts she uses in her work. The first concept she introduces is that of the black counter-public. Counter-public is the people who, far from being in the mainstream of political decisions, allow themselves to criticize power and have exchanges different from the ideas entertained by the authority. Harris-Lacewell (2010) asserts that many political and social movements, such as feminism and modern conservatism, grew from Afro-American talks at the grassroots level. In fact, Harris-Lacewell (2010) states that private talks among community members serve to crystallize and orchestrate Afro-American collective concerns. Thus, the black counter-public plays a major role in shaping the views and positions of society.
The second concept raised in Harris-Lacewell’s book is that of bottom-up political development. Harris-Lacewell claims that political movements and ideas reflect the essence of Afro-Americans’ opinions that they express in private talks. Thus, political changes first start in the masses and are discussed in shops, barbers, and cafes, and only after that come to the fore in a political landscape. Thus, Harris-Lacewell (2010) highlights the central place of ordinary Afro-Americans in the processes of decision-making. The concept of bottom-up political development highlights the fact that these are masses that give birth to political changes and initiatives.
The third concept raised in the book is that of mass orientation. Under mass orientation, Harris-Lacewell (2010) means that private talks in shops and other public places form collective self-awareness and preferences that should be at the core of future political decisions. The black political thought questions Harris-Lacewell (2010) addresses are nationalism, feminism, and liberal integration. However, there is no indication that one category is preferable to others; rather, they all have the same source, being born out of African-American counter-public.
From the very beginning, Afro-American feminism focused on women and their struggle for better living and working conditions. It left its imprint on the great social revolutions of the XX century, as a result of which the original goal of feminism was achieved: Afro-American women were granted political and civil rights. The peculiarity of the development of national processes of African Americans is a close connection with racism, racial segregation, to which they were subjected by some white citizens and US state institutions. The peculiarity of Afro-American nationalism lies in the fact that some Afro-American organizations proclaim not ‘integration’ into ‘white society’, but, on the contrary, complete separation from it. The most radical of them entertain the idea of black separatism that denies the cooperation of blacks and whites, advocates the use of force in self-defense, propagandizes slogans, and expresses pride in belonging to the black race. However, these voices are not numerous, and nowadays, many nationalists focus on African Americans’ social issues, the fight against poverty, and protecting them from the biased attitude of state institutions.
Another issue covered in the book is that of African-American culture. Harris-Lacewell (2010) strongly believes that culture is born out of day-to-day communications and life within the community. Harris-Lacewell (2010) argues, “Marxism coheres poorly in contemporary black opinion and is only marginally responsible for shaping and directing African American political attitudes” (22). Addressing the issues of nationalism and feminism, Harris-Lacewell (2010) state that they have the same roots. She asserts that these movements grow out of Afro-American counter-public and are inherent in people’s self-consciousness. However, not all Afro-Americans feel the same about nationalism and national identity, Harris-Lacewell (2010) calls this phenomenon dissociation. Dissociations are needed since people are different and cannot share all ideas but only some.
Calling attention to black counter-public and bottom-up political development, Harris-Lacewell (2010) achieves the objective of calling the public’s attention to the black community’s private talks. Afro-American mainstream has not been given proper attention, and Harris-Lacewell (2010) managed to show what impact it had on the US culture. Moreover, by showing how political and social movements are born, she calls on people to pay more attention to Afro-American talk since their great ideas may be born. However, Harris-Lacewell (2010) is not objective in attributing the development of all major XX-century movements, such as feminism, nationalism and modern conservatism, only to Afro-American culture. Other cultures took part in the formation of these movements as well. There is not enough evidence in the book that would undoubtedly show the leading role of Afro-American culture in these movements.
Harris-Lacewell, Melissa Victoria, and Melissa Victoria Harris-Lacewell. Barbershops, bibles, and BET. Princeton University Press. Web.