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Essay Identity Impolite Race

Now comes Chicago Tribune columnist and television commentator Clarence Page with "Showing My Color," which is really not, as the subtitle indicates, a collection of "impolite essays." Instead, Page has crafted a sensitive set of memoirs about what it is like to be a buppie (black urban professional) in a world whose ghettos are both real and imagined.

Perhaps only Page can confer the title of memoir on his work, but there are so many telling and painful insights here that, though he skillfully employs "proper distancing"--the journalist's anesthetic--we come to learn much about Page's life.

Page may well be the most open and accessible commentator on the scene today. His observations on what "color blindness" really implies and how to understand "integration fatigue" come to us under no cover of satire or chic, though Page certainly knows how to bite. (His characterization of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as the "Bob Guccione of racial porn" proves that he has a full set of teeth.)

Page presents a picture of thoughtful moderation throughout this work. Especially commendable are chapters titled "Who Killed Integration? The New Apartness" and "We, the Indigestibles: The Campus Culture Wars." From the latter comes this attempt to embrace the "greater good":

"I reject Afrocentrism, Hispanocentrism, Asiacentrism, feminocentrism, and any other line of study when its placing of one group at the center of its universe results in a bending of history and reality to suit the cause of ethnic or gender therapy or cheerleading. Multiculturalism, it has been said, is pluralism without walls. It is a call for inclusion. It is a blow against the culturally imposed barriers that impede the ability of groups to learn about one another. It is not necessarily a rejection of all that is produced by dead white males. Multiculturalism should be and increasingly will be considered an integral part of one's education in the coming multicultural century."

In the chapter "Survivors' Guilt: The Discreet Angst of the Black Bourgeoisie," Page lets us even further into his life as he relates the story of his first wife's suicide, caused by a chronic depression that Page says was related to inner conflicts over her "escape" from poverty and a public housing ghetto. Perhaps he was talking to her when he wrote, "The best cure for survivors' guilt is to help others survive and prosper."

"Showing My Color" urges us to accept both pragmatism and paradox. We must accept that change is difficult, even painful. We must accept that at the same time we want to experience lives of inclusion, we must not abandon our essential cultural histories and identities. And, finally, we must all face the challenge in moving from being "non-racist" to "anti-racist."

Through the years, much has been written about what Columbia University's Manning Marable today calls this country's "parallel racial universes." Where do works such as Page's take us now? Do we see in them just another point on a continuum of racial hopelessness? In my view, we read and embrace the essays of Clarence Page and thank him for his persistence, his courage to make his voice heard over fear and indifference. There is a reward to persistence, and it, too, travels a continuum--one that takes us through unconsciousness to awareness and a call for action.

Showing My Color: Impolite Essays on Race and Identity3.17 · Rating details ·  6 Ratings  ·  1 Review

The Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune presents a series of essays examining the central questions of race, gender, and ethnic identity that have emerged since the civil rights reforms of the mid-1960s. The essays address such topics as how racism still acts to keep nonwhites in subordinate political, economic, and social status; how the hip-hop generThe Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune presents a series of essays examining the central questions of race, gender, and ethnic identity that have emerged since the civil rights reforms of the mid-1960s. The essays address such topics as how racism still acts to keep nonwhites in subordinate political, economic, and social status; how the hip-hop generation has turned -black is beautiful' on its head; and the volatile relationship between blacks and Jews. Page reflects on changes in the racial landscape since the 1960s and reconnects the increasingly abstract political debates about black conservatives, affirmative action, and the race card to the people for whom these words mean something more than just votes....more

Paperback, 320 pages

Published February 19th 1997 by Harper Perennial (first published February 1997)