“On a cold October day, I drove to the South Side of Chicago to meet a man some called the griot”
This book by Charles M Blow is subtitled “A Black Power Manifesto” and going into the book, not looking up remotely what it was about I was curious about what that might mean. I read it because I’ve seen and read and liked a lot of Charles Blow’s writing over the years. The book also came out within the last two or so years, and the books that have come out during that time period have tended to be about the recent discussion of race in America, which has largely been about over-policing, police violence, vote suppression, COVID and similar topics. We’ve somewhat shifted away from the politics of interpersonal relations that a book might have focused on about 5 or years ago and this book is not about that really.
The book is also not a general overview of those more recent topics with Charles M Blow’s personal voice adding to that chorus of voices, although there’s some of that in here from time to time, but instead this is a treatise with a very specific political argument, some discussion of potential complications to the plan, and some context needed to frame it. I think the book would have been stronger with more direct attention and a stronger call for the plan, because the plan almost gets a little veiled in the discussions the book engages in at times. The plan is relatively straightforward: using the recent swing of Georgia to blue in 2020, and modeled after migratory efforts in the past, Charles Blow argues that the best way for Black people in the US to become a more concentrated and powerful (and unified) voting block is to move to the states that already have large Black populations to further push them toward a majority. His argument would allow for some 90 or electoral votes, and a dozen senate seats to be controlled by majority Black populations. Hence, the title for this book as a Black power manifesto. What’s interesting about this plan is that not only would it be powerful (and I am not really getting into pragmatics of it), it would probably break the political system wide-open too. His position partly comes from his more from NYC back to Louisiana as a way to return his voice to where he grew up and how to actually move power into the hands of Black people. I live in Richmond and as exciting as it is to tear down statues and as good as that might be, it’s not entirely clear what specific ways it worked to material benefit Black people in my city. Its effects are decidedly more abstract, and this book is a call for a material change.