COAL TO CREAM: A Black Man’s Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race. – Review

COAL TO CREAM: A Black Man’s Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race. – Review – book review

COAL TO CREAM: A Black Man’s Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race by Eugene Robinson (Free Press, 1999. 288 pp. $24)

Both of these books, by veteran black Washington Post reporters, contemplate the meaning of blackness through the prism of the authors’ experiences at postings abroad–one in Brazil, the other in Africa. Both authors wish to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy of opinion on race through an honest confrontation with themselves, and both, by the end of their sojourns, confess to a rueful appreciation for the United States. But whereas Robinson initially finds the very invisibility of race in Brazil a pleasant change of pace, Richburg recoils, horrified, at the sheer inhumanity he so frequently encounters in Africa. Robinson ultimately finds the absence of black consciousness an impediment to the affirmation of his identity, and, by extension, to the social awareness he feels is critical to an honest understanding of self and society. Richburg finds himself wholly alienated by his experience abroad, and convinced more than ever that his primary identity is not racial but national: “Thank God that I am an American.” In the end, one feels that both authors shortchanged themselves by their preoccupation with America’s racial dialogue; in using their experiences as a vehicle for exploring their identity as black Americans, neither explores the places in which he finds himself–or his own conscience–with the empathetic depth one might have wished for.

COPYRIGHT 1999 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group