Review: From "Superman" to Man

From From "Superman" to Man by J.A. Rogers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rogers' fictional polemic explores and deconstructs the racism that pervades the United States. The story focuses largely on a conversation between Dixon, a Black porter on a train, and the white Southern racist legislator as the legislator attempts to argue the "nature" of Black inferiority. Over the course of several days, the conversations wind and turn with him throwing up argument after argument. But whether a strawperson of sociology, biology, psychology, economics, culture, religion, etc, they all crumble against Dixon's ample intelligence and research. While Dixon is a fictional character, the research he calls upon is real, relying on scientists, philosophers, political thinkers, and many others both of the time and from centuries past. That's what is most striking about this book from 1917--the height of Jim Crow--that Rogers has such a systematic reach of knowledge to dismantle every argument racism. It's the type of book that sends a reader researching to learn more about the various scholars and thinkers that Rogers' calls upon. Though his arguments are not always perfect and would run into some limitations in the discourse of racism today, it's still overwhelmingly prescient and powerful to see how fraudulently race differences have been upheld in American society for so long. Finally, what proves most interesting about Rogers' work is how often he calls upon elements that would later show up in writers such at Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison around the ways in which whiteness itself is its own version of enslavement (of mind) to which whites are largely unaware of but often beholden to. These moments in the book are most prescient to help understand how racism continues to exist in the US.

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