Darryl Pinckney’s Intimate Study of Black History

Zadie Smith at The New Yorker:

Pinckney’s emphasis on the interpolation of class and race can make him appear closer to the leftist Afro-Caribbean tradition of race theorists—exemplified by thinkers such as Paul Gilroy and Stuart Hall—who reject mythical or essentialist theories of racism in favor of a concrete economic analysis, in which racial distinctions have been created and maintained primarily for the sake of capitalist exploitation. For Pinckney, blackness is not an essential quality found in the blood, the spirit, or even the genes (“I’d never liked that way of assigning innate behavioral characteristics to whole nations or groups. The work of every serious social scientist militated against it.”) but a conceptual framework subject to history, like everything else. “The Irish used to be black socially, meaning at the bottom,” he writes in one example. “The gift of being white helped to subdue class antagonism.”

more here.