Themes

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Last Updated on August 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 355

Jeff Chang wrote the essays in We Gon' Be Alright as the Black Lives Matter movement was taking hold in the United States. A historian at Stanford University with two decades of experience studying race, Chang is concerned about the increasingly divisive American racial climate. The book situates recent developments with their antecedents in what he sees as a fundamentally unjust political system.

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Resegregation

Resegregation, from the book’s subtitle, is the primary theme that connects the chapters. Chang argues that, contrary to what many white people assert, the United States has recently become more racially segregated and is similar to its 1970s status. This has occurred in part because the idea of “colorblindness” has taken hold, as people convince themselves that race is not important. Chang explores the idea of cyclical regression, as each civil rights advance is followed by a backlash that reasserts the status quo. He addresses the role of de facto segregation in the St. Louis area as a factor in the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown.

Diversity

Chang explores the changing meanings of diversity in the United States since the civil rights legislation of the 1960s. Countering the idea that diversity and affirmative action programs primarily benefit minority peoples, the author explores the promotion of its value for the majority. He looks at wide-ranging deployments of the concept, from employment statistics through Supreme Court cases. While acknowledging that diversity should be seen as maximally beneficial to all, he addresses how this shift disproportionately benefits white people by securing invisible quotas.

Power and Political Culture

Examining a spectrum of cultural developments of the last few decades, Chang addresses politics broadly as the deployment of power. Hip hop, a subject he has studied intensively, plays a prominent role, as it has been appropriated and mainstreamed away from its African American origins. Another aspect of cultural politics is the white male dominance in one important means of cultural production, the Hollywood film industry, which he explores through the Oscars So White movement. Political control through culture, Chang argues, is more strongly asserted when the identities of those in control are hidden or dismissed as irrelevant.

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