Nation of Cowards

Nation of Cowards

Black Activism in Barack Obama’s Post-Racial America
David H. Ikard and Martell Lee Teasley
Distribution: World
Publication date: 09/04/2012
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-00628-8
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In a speech from which Nation of Cowards derives its title, Attorney General Eric Holder argued forcefully that Americans today need to talk more—not less—about racism. This appeal for candid talk about race exposes the paradox of Barack Obama’s historic rise to the US presidency and the ever-increasing social and economic instability of African American communities. David H. Ikard and Martell Lee Teasley maintain that such a conversation can take place only with passionate and organized pressure from black Americans, and that neither Obama nor any political figure is likely to be in the forefront of addressing issues of racial inequality and injustice. The authors caution blacks not to slip into an accommodating and self-defeating "post-racial" political posture, settling for the symbolic capital of a black president instead of demanding structural change. They urge the black community to challenge the social terms on which it copes with oppression, including acts of self-imposed victimization.

Author Bio

David H. Ikard is Associate Professor of English at Florida State University and author of Breaking the Silence: Toward a Black Male Feminist Criticism. His blog "Nation of Cowards" ( takes up contemporary racial topics and engages a wider intellectual and activist community.

Martell Lee Teasley is Professor and Chair of the Department of Social Work at the University of Texas at San Antonio.


“A clarion call to our nation's conscience. Free from overly academic jargon, but full of powerful wordplay and brilliant juxtapositions, this book is a fascinating tour de force from start to finish. Those seeking a clear and concise explanation of the state of African America and the ongoing need for a 'black agenda' during–and even after–the administration of the first African American president need look no further.”
 — Reiland Rabaka, author of Forms of Fanonism; Against Epistemic Apartheid; and Hip Hop’s Amnesia

“Nation of Cowards offers an analysis of the Obama administration is as thorough as it is compact. Here are the hard questions that must be asked of the first black presidency and an insightful draft of how history may regard it. Ikard and Teasley are well ahead of that curve.”
 — Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama & the Paradox of Progress

“A smart and energetic book that unravels the political grammar of hesitancy around questions of race in the United States. It walks us through the political minefield, revealing what appears to be a 21st century debate between Booker Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois, around jeremiads for personal responsibility to structural analyses of systematic racism, between thrusting the blame for disparity on the poor to pointing fingers at the immense theft of social wealth by the rich. A thoughtful book that will be a useful guide in a divisive election year.”
 — Vijay Prashad, author of Uncle Swami: South Asian in America Today

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Is America a Nation of Cowards or Has Attorney General Eric Holder Lost His Mind?
1. The Teaching Moment that Never Was: Henry Louis Gates, Barack Obama, and the Post-Racial Dilemma
2. "I Know What’s in His Heart": Enlightened Exceptionalism and the Problem with Using Barack Obama as the Racial Litmus Test for Black Progress and Achievement
3. The Audacity of Reverend Wright: Speaking Truth to Power in the 21st Century
4. Setting the Record Straight: Why Barack Obama and America Cannot Afford to Ignore a Black Agenda
5. Pull Yourself Up by Your Bootstraps: Barack Obama, the Black Poor, and the Problems of Racial Common Sense

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