chapter  12
8 Pages

Looking for Modernism: Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The strictures of "representation" have had wide and varied permutations in the Black community. For as we know, the history of AfricanAmericans is marked by its noble demands for political tolerance from the larger society, but also by its paradoxical tendency to censure its own. W. E. B. DuBois was rebuked by the NAACP for his nationalism in the 1930s and then again for his socialism a decade or so later. James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison were victims of the Black Arts Movement in the sixties, the former for his sexuality, the latter for his insistence upon individualism. Martin Luther King and Eartha Kitt, strange bedfellows at best, were roundly condemned for their early protests against the Vietnam War. Amiri Baraka repudiated a whole slew of writers in the sixties for being too "assimilationist," then invented a whole new canon of Black targets when he became a Marxist a few years later. Michele Wallace, Ntozake Shange, and Alice Walker have been called Black-male-bashers and accused of calculated complicity with White racists. Not surprisingly, many Black intellectuals are acutely aware of the hazards of falling out of favor with the thought-police, whether in whiteface or black.