Paul Gilroy, a black British intellectual, is one of the most important and influential thinkers of the past couple of decades, particularly for his book The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993). This book will be of interest also to secularists for its portrayal of progressive thinkers like Frederick Douglass, C.L.R. James, and Richard Wright.

Here I want to single out another of Gilroy's books:

Against Race: Imagining Political Culture Beyond the Color Line.
Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000.

This blurb explains why the book is so important:

"Paul Gilroy, whose Black Atlantic broke through the nation-specific context of race politics, has written a powerful, albeit minoritarian defense of the position that racial thinking--not just racism--is a key obstacle to human freedom (an aspiration, he sadly notes, that has virtually disappeared from political discourse). In his analysis of the origins and uses of racial thinking Gilroy spares from his critique neither black pride nor black separatism, let alone racism's most virulent forms, fascism and colonialism...The result is that he has offered one of the most impressive refutations of race as an anthropological concept since the publication of Ashley Montagu's Man's Most Dangerous Myth: The Fallacy of Race more than fifty years ago...Gilroy's reach is dazzling, his analysis acute and insightful, but in the end he recognizes that, lacking a political constituency for his planetary humanism, his ideas remain not a program but a utopian hope...At the end of the day, Against Race remains the brilliant jeremiad of an out-of-step intellectual whose main weapon is criticism. There are few who do it better."
--Stanley Aronowitz (The Nation )

For Gilroy, the 20th century could be named a lot of things, but for him it could well be called the century of fascism. Gilroy got himself into trouble with African-American intellectuals with this book, for a number of reasons. His pointing out the linkage of black nationalism with fascism was likely one of the big sticking points.

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