Amiri Baraka

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What are the key points in Amiri Baraka's "Black is a Country"?

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In his essay "Black is a Country," Amiri Baraka makes many key points. He points out how nationalism turns into a "dirty" word when it's embraced by populations that have suffered and died due to Western nationalism. He also points out how people of color find themselves in their own country inside America. Lastly, he points to how prominent black politicians and leaders tend to not serve the best interests of the black population at large.

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Amiri Baraka's essay "'Black is a Country" is a powerful piece of writing that involves a lot of key points that seem to collide or go against one another.

First, there's the theme of "nationalism." For Baraka, "nationalism" means "acting in one's own best interests," which is why "Western peoples" are some of the "richest and best fed in the world." But when people who have suffered due to Western nationalism start to promote their own nationalism, the word "nationalism" becomes “dirty.”

One of the main points of this essay is taking what America does and doing it for yourself. Baraka promotes "the militant espousal of the doctrine of serving one's own people's interests before those of a foreign country."

Another key point is country. "The black man has been separated and made to live in his own country of color," writes Baraka. For Baraka, the only way to get to "the mainland of America" is via "subservience, cowardice, and loss of manhood."

You might want to talk about how Baraka reinforces and redefines what a country is and what it means? How can people of color both live in American and in a "country of color"? How do laws and policies create and reinforce this separation?

Another central point for Baraka are black men whom he derisively calls "official Negroes." You might want to compare his critique of "official Negroes" to critiques of prominent black politicians like Kamala Harris and Barack Obama. You might want to talk about how Baraka's theme of "official Negroes" relates to current debates centered on identity politics and representation.

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