Talking the Walk: A Communications Guide for Racial Justice is an important book with a lot to say if you are involved in any kind of activist group (race-based or not), but I have to wonder if its message is a little lost.
The book, edited by Hunter Cutting and Makani Themba-Nixon, gives activists the tools to effectively deal with issues of race when it comes to things like dealing with the mainstream media. It teaches people how to fashion the debate, how to get issues into the public eye and so on. Honestly, I could see this AK Press book being used in colleges, as it is that thorough and set up to do that very thing. Any questions about the book's validity are also addressed by the use of examples where the described tactics clearly worked. But, again, does it matter?
Now that Obama is president, I've actually heard people say the country is no longer racist. And then there are those who use his race as the butt of jokes (which I've covered on the Cancerous Zeitgeist blog). These two groups are the extremes. There are those who think racism is gone, and those for which it will never go away. Yes it is important to get both groups to hear messages that racism exists and it should be eradicated, but you have to wonder how you can effectively get it through their heads. This book claims to show activist groups how.
On one hand, repeating a message over and over will eventually cause it to sink in and become effective. That's something this book understands.
On the other hand, you spend a lot of time and effort appealing to morons. Time spent on them is time not spent on something else.
Racist messages in the media and from the government must be fought and countered. I don't think any progressive thinking person would argue otherwise. Knowing how to fight and counter is essential, hence the need for the book. I just have a problem taking the fight to idiots.
I am conflicted when it comes to this book. I can see its importance (and it is very well written), but it is not something I would pick up for casual reading. (I actually got it because I'm a Friend of AK Press, which is something everyone should look into.) The only parts of the book that actually interested me were the media situations that were presented (such as Katrina) and how they were dealt with by activist groups. That was interesting.
I've always been a firm believer in letting people drown in their own stupidity and ridiculous beliefs. I understand that when it comes to issues such as race, that stupidity becomes a huge problem for other people. On some level, however, it becomes a gay marriage problem.
The gay marriage problem is simple. Homosexuals want to be treated like heterosexual couples when it comes to marriage. They want assimilation. I would argue that assimilation is a bad thing (look at how well it worked for Native Americans). Equal rights, freedom, and all that comes with it is important. Assimilation destroys cultures. Asking for the right to marry isn't as effective as somehow taking it. Asking to be treated as equals when it comes to race, isn't as effective as demanding it. That's why I always loved the Black Panthers over say King, Jr. When you demand, you don't lose your sense of self. When you ask, it's akin to begging your master for a treat.
This book walks that line, but it often strays into the demanding side, which is why I feel it was worth reading. I just wish most of the focus would've been on creating your own media instead of using the enemy's.
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