Last Updated on August 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 437
Jeff Chang's We Gon' Be Alright is a collection of essays. Therefore, there are no main characters or characters that receive more attention than others. We Gon' Be Alright is a nuanced reflection of the state of race and resegregation in America. Thus, the main characters of the text are America and the communities within the nation.
There is a tendency, when discussing issues of race and racism in America, to emphasize what communities of color and communities under the thumb of oppression must do. How can and how should they protest? What are reasonable demands? In this framework, the responsibility for addressing injustice falls on the shoulders of those carrying the burden. Throughout the text, Chang addresses the pervasiveness of whiteness in American culture, politics, and policies. By doing so, he calls on white communities to take action and help address the issues Americans face. Many of the institutional practices resegregating America perpetuate existing power structures by closing off opportunities to marginalized communities. White people and communities have a responsibility, just as communities of color do, to address them. In his essays on diversity, art, Ferguson, and others, Chang analyzes some of the roles white Americans have had in these discussions.
Another community often overlooked in discussions of race in America are Asian Americans. Chang describes being Asian American as sometimes being the inverse of being African American. In The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois posed the question "What does it mean to be a problem?" to his black audience. Chang, looking at being Asian American as having an intersectional identity, responds,
What does it mean to be the evidence that racism is not real? . . . To be fetishized by colorblind liberals and white supremacists alike? To be so innocuous that teachers and policemen and figures of authority allow you the benefit of a doubt? To be desired for your fluid, exotic, futuristic, yielding difference? What does it mean to be the solution? For you, the Duboisian question is turned upside down. It haunts you.
Asian Americans have historically been shaped by America's racialized policies and should remain a part of these conversations of race.
Overall, this is a text with no main characters. Readers intimately follow the events in Ferguson following the execution of Mike Brown. While national media and politicians lost themselves in the spectacle, Chang brings readers down to the streets to remind them of Mike's humanity and the loss experienced by his family, friends, and community. Chang describes artists and activists, police officers and protestors—with each character having an important role to play to find a lasting solution.