Yurugu: A Counter Racist Book Review by Josh Wickett
Author: Marimba Ani
Publisher: African World Press, 1994. 570 pgs.
A person I know once compared “Black Studies” to “studying your navel while being raped.”
I think what he meant was that Black people need to spend less time looking at each other and more time studying White Supremacists. The book Yurugu by Marimba Ani is just such an exercise. I have seen several interviews with Marimba Ani and the most striking thing about her is her focus on White Supremacy in spite of all her “higher education.” Is it me? or is this an unusual phenomenon?
If you understand the importance of language and the role of words as tools, you will find this book very interesting. One of the main weaknesses of counter racism code is that the victims lack the language (words) to accurately describe the problem. Dr. Ani partially solves this problem by giving you words and definitions that fill these vacuums in understanding. Some of these words are African in origin; don’t let this throw you off. Focus on the definition for the words and as you read the book, you will understand why she is using them.
This is a very serious book and you’re gonna hafta take your time with it. Lets face it, you see White people all day long but I bet you never really think about what a “White person” is or why they behave the way they do. Depending on your level of victimization, for some of you this may be a deeply troubling book. The very act of studying White people in a system of White Supremacy is treasonous even on a good day. Entire chapters of this book are devoted to study of White people’s; image of others, Rhetoric and behavior, behavior towards others, self image… And this is all done while maintaining a focus on White Supremacy. Too many times counter racism science morphs into a giant academic exercise with no real world application. You see this a lot when an author is trying to sell books about racism to White people.
I have great respect for any non white person that attempts to reveal the most familiar mystery in the known universe–White people. Marimba Ani has done a great job. This is a very good book, how do I know?
Because it has “legs.” It will walk out of your house. People who flip through it will ask you if they can borrow it, and you will never get it back. Some of you “academic kneegrows” out there, trapped in your tight white bodies, will really be challenged to try and think in a language other than White Supremacy. Just remember that the African terms and definitions she uses are there to “make up” (compensate) for a word we need to describe the problem.
Imagine you are an inmate being held (unjustly) in a prison and you ain’t got no word for “tunnel”? In order to teach the other inmates the concept of two vertical holes connected by a horizontal hole you need a word to describe it.
Most of Yurugu is a description of the “guards” at the prison; the way they think and the words they use. This book does not have the “cure” for racism, neither do I. But the first step in curing a disease is making an accurate diagnosis. The first step is to come up with words that accurately describe reality. Its not a “cop out” for YOU to make up words. As long as they describe reality, you are on the right path.
Just look at Lou Gerig, he died from “Lou Gerig’s disease” his doctors had to call it somethin?
Words produce thinking, thinking produces words.
It is through the process of thinking that all problems are solved.