Race, Class, Genre, and the Dilemmas of Black ManhoodTommy J. Curry
Tommy J. Curry’s provocative book The Man-Not is a justification for Black Male Studies. He posits that we should conceptualize the Black male as a victim, oppressed by his sex. The Man-Not, therefore, is a corrective of sorts, offering a concept of Black males that could challenge the existing accounts of Black men and boys desiring the power of white men who oppress them that has been proliferated throughout academic research across disciplines.
Curry argues that Black men struggle with death and suicide, as well as abuse and rape, and their genred existence deserves study and theorization. This book offers intellectual, historical, sociological, and psychological evidence that the analysis of patriarchy offered by mainstream feminism (including Black feminism) does not yet fully understand the role that homoeroticism, sexual violence, and vulnerability play in the deaths and lives of Black males. Curry challenges how we think of and perceive the conditions that actually affect all Black males.
"Tommy Curry has written a cool, brilliant defense of the men who are the pariahs of American society: the ones who, regardless of class, find themselves at the bottom of every hierarchy; the ones whose demographics and statistics in terms of the criminal justice, health care, and other systems are abysmal. Countless billions have been made from the portrayal of Black males as Boogeymen. The Man-Not is heavy work, but the general reader will find its arguments well worth the time and effort. This book is controversial. Those who’ve dogged and stalked Black men in the academy and popular culture for the past few decades are sure to have their critical knives out. I know. But it’s rare for an American intellectual to step up, regardless of the fallout. This book is the one that I’ve been waiting for. Curry has taken a bullet for the brothers."
—Ishmael Reed, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, and Visiting Scholar at the California College of the Arts
" In a bold—indeed, fearless—intervention in the ongoing race/gender/sexual orientation debates, Tommy Curry challenges the cozy consensus among self-conceived progressives in the humanities. The oppression of black men has been conceptually erased, he argues, by theoretical frameworks indifferent to the social science data that refute them. Sure to ignite a firestorm of controversy, The Man-Not is an impassioned protest against orthodoxies, both mainstream and radical, white and black. It is required reading for anyone interested in understanding oppression or having unquestioned assumptions put to the test."
—Charles W. Mills, Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center
"(The Man-Not) contains so many studies in detail, that (it) first might appear to be an anthology of research done over the years: from race in 19th century ethnology, through black writers’ experience of the effects of the prison-industrial complex, to white women raping black men under slavery, and supporting their lynching in a later period of history.... (S)lowly I started to understand that these were not case studies, and the book is no anthology. It is systematical and methodical to the core, forming theory from actual issues in the lives of black men and boys."
"Curry's style of writing and the occasional boldness of his assertions make the book well worth reading. The overall aims of the book are highlighted through mapping the vulnerability which makes the genre theory of Man-Not(ness) a useful framework for further theorizations that consider the presence of the Black male corpse and sexual vulnerability in conceptualizations of Black maleness. Curry's revising of Black masculinity highlights the need to theorize Black masculinity without using white masculinity as a benchmark."
—NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies
"The release of Tommy J. Curry's new text, The Man-No t, is both monumental and groundbreaking. This text inaugurates a new field of study—namely, Black Male Studies, and Dr. Curry lays the foundation well by establishing a multi-layered, nuanced approach that encompasses new approaches to conceptualizing gender, develops new gender theory, re-evaluates sexuality, and creatively applies class-analysis in an effort to consider Black men on wholly new grounds. Curry accomplishes this difficult task with seeming ease."
—New Black Masculinities
"The Man-Not is an important work that is essential in the day and age of disposable blog entries that ride on incorrect tropes about Black men. This is factual work backed up by data that can be proven, and that is what is missing in conversations about race. The Man-Not is a very dense book. There is a lot to digest here, but a book about racism and white supremacy should not be a quick read. This is a triumph in Black studies and about how the African-American man and boy is written. I felt pride and satisfaction reading this book. A Black man writing a book to humanize Black men and boys: it couldn’t have come at a better time for me and everyone else."
—The Good Men Project
"Curry offers a provocative discussion of black masculinity by critiquing both the social and academic treatment of killings of black men and boys in the US. The author forces readers to reevaluate the interpretations and stereotypes the media uses. He argues that gender studies has disadvantaged black men by imposing and supporting negative historical stereotypes and ignoring the diversity of black boys and men and by falsely aligning black masculinity with white masculinity.... The present book is an attempt to fill the gap by presenting a philosophical theory on black masculinity that Curry claims is nonexistent in philosophy.... (A)n excellent basis for discussions of the academic constructs of legitimacy in research. Many readers may find this book an uncomfortable read, and that is the very reason it should be read....Summing Up: Highly recommended."
"(A)lthough some will find this text controversial and seek to dismiss its conclusion and criticisms, I find it a welcomed call to see Black men and boys as worthy of being subjects of study.... This book is thus a must-read for undergraduates, graduate students and faculty studying the complex intersections of race, gender and class; general readers will also find a challenging but eye-opening introduction to Black Male Studies."
—American Philosophical Association's blog series, titled "Black Issues in Philosophy"
"The Man-Not introduces a progressive black male studies that is decidedly nonfeminist, and the book demands a radical rethinking of the category of 'gender' itself.... It is impressive to watch Curry build arguments and the seamless manner in which the philosopher moves between sources across disciplines.... (It is) refreshing to read a book that has little time for academic pleasantries and is so eager to transcend the boundaries of traditional gender theorizing.... (R)eaders from diverse academic backgrounds can still learn much in its pages."
—Men and Masculinities
"This book reads as a spiritual successor to W.E.B. Dubois's 1906 keynote speech delivered during the second annual Niagara Movement Conference.... Curry echoes the same sentiment that Black men have been subjugated due to systemic violence, denial of rights, and oppression. The author is open and candid that this is as much an emotional book as an academic one.... It is an impassioned plea for justice and legitimation that is often read in books but rarely felt.... The book is an incredible piece of scholarship for Black Male Studies and completely convincing in its claim that there is not only a need for Black Male Studies but a need to study it across multiple disciplines, particularly at the intersection of race, masculinity, law, politics, and class. His ability to deliver scholarship that is part literature review, part critique, part analysis, and part biography makes this book an important piece of work set to help steer Black Male Studies into a new, exciting direction."
—Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
"Tommy J. Curry’s The Man-Not is a groundbreaking work that argues for a new field of intellectual labor: black male studies.... In each chapter, Curry effectively delineates how black men and boys have been rendered as mythological creatures and pathogens in the American imaginary.... The Man-Not is a well-written and well-researched scholarly effort whose end is to demythologize black masculinity in service of a new field of inquiry where black men and boys are concerned.... The Man-Not is a groundbreaking text that raises necessary epistemological and empirical questions regarding the nature, status, and existence of black males in North America. Its deep engagement with history, sociology, racial ideology, and gender theory distinguishes it from standard works on race, class, and gender in the United States. The Man-Not demonstrates that the condition and status of black males in the United States is unresolved, precarious, and urgent, and that more scholarly work needs to be done."
—African American Review
"Curry provides a nuanced exploration for viewing gendered violence systemically – and thus delivers a model for analyzing sexual violence as part of a broader tapestry of gendered violence enacted by the state.... In addition to attending more carefully to black male vulnerability, Curry’s work invites rhetorical critics to think more expansively about the nature of gendered violence. The Man-Not provides important heuristics for nuanced critiques of sexual violence that illuminate the ways in which even the most nominally progressive discourses trade in the sexual dehumanization of Others."
—Quarterly Journal of Speech
"Curry’s book is not only a necessary read for those interested in the study of racism, gender, and sexuality; it is also a call to build a field of study dedicated to Black men, their lives and vulnerabilities in a way that restores their humanity.... Curry’s book is a masterful feat of historiography, sociology, and philosophy. His work is an excellent read.... By addressing the racist assumptions in gender scholarship regarding Black men, Curry is able to fill in some gaps in the literature and lay the foundation for a much-needed field of study dedicated to Black men.... (T)his book will likely change the field of gender studies."
— The Black Scholar
"(Curry) makes a sterling contribution to intellectual history.... (His) research is impeccable.... Curry enlightens us well in his chapters on historiography; sexual victimization of the Black male; the political economy of misandry, class warfare, and disciplinary propagation of mythology; eschatological dilemmas; the delusion of hope and the necessity of coming to grips with what is anti-ethical.... (C)ritics and teachers who have a genuine investment in social justice and human rights activism should dare to 'translate' many of Curry’s ideas into accessible forms (genres) needed in the pedagogy of the oppressed."
— Neworld Review
"Curry equally engages academic scholarship and literature from the Black struggle against empire to challenge the claim of Black male privilege.... The Man-Not is as rich in historical data as it is in theoretical analysis. Curry traces the transformation of Black men into 'man-nots' to the roots of the U.S. capitalist slave system where Black men were defined as brutes and rapists to justify their condition of unfreedom.... This book further reminds us that Black men and boys are, and should be, active agents of their own history and struggle for freedom.... Curry speaks the language of the struggle."
— Black Agenda Report
"The Man-Not is an impressive book, sure to upset scholars invested in static gender theory based on racial myths reproduced in the academy in lieu of empirical debates addressing the impossibility of Black patriarchy amid anti-Black achievement policies that disproportionately affect Black males.... The Man-Not exemplifies the deep, risky criticism that all scholars should aspire to, particularly as Curry’s call for the institutionalization of Black male studies is compelling.... Curry’s argument is contentious yet indispensable amid the oftentimes deadly systemic oppressions that Black males encounter."
— Women's Studies in Communication
"This text by Curry is never neutral and does not allow the reader to have an ambivalent opinion about its subject matter. What it does, possibly better than all other recent texts on black males, is inquire if it is ethical to continue to simply quote negative statistics about black males without cataloguing the conditions through which the catalogued negative statistics have emerged, thereby creating the ability to dehumanize. The text also goes a long way towards creating a lens through which a future genre of this type study may be assessed. Curry is to be commended on this effort." — The Acorn: Philosophical Studies in Pacifism and Nonviolence
"The Man-Not can be interpreted as a secular lamentation against contemporary efforts to perpetuate anti-Black racist misandry. It is also a call to repent and forsake the anti-Black racist misandry of mainstream US academia and society for a nobler spiritual task—the task of caring about Black men and boys, not as objects of scientific study, not as spectacles on films and social media, but as persons. This is a fine task to pursue." — The Acorn: Philosophical Studies in Pacifism and Nonviolence
"Tommy Curry’s The Man-Not is required reading for all who work at the intersection of race and gender, especially in the current political milieu in which dead Black male bodies are frequently on display in America. As such, the book is a timely contribution.... It presents strong arguments and raises important questions about the intersection of race and gender in theory. I recommend everyone who works in this area to read it and, most of all, take it seriously."
— American Studies
" Ultimately, The Man-Not is persuasive in its conclusion that black male studies offers the only liberatory possibility for black men because this method of study conveys that black men possess alternative forms of being, as well as the capacity to invent, create, redefine, and resist the mimicry of white patriarchal genocidal logics."
— The Journal of African American History
"(A) rigorously-argued, meticulously-researched treatise, The Man-Not makes two important interventions that warrant immediate engagement by anyone who hopes to seriously study gender and race in the United States.... The Man-Not is a tour de force.... (T)his text is a vindication; and as an academic, it is an invitation to engage in impactful scholarship that has real-world, anti-racist implications."
— Houston Review of Books
"Tommy J. Curry’s Man-Not is a remarkable work of academic philosophy not simply because of its consistent rigour and forceful argumentation, but especially of a work of philosophy, for its rare boldness, originality, and concrete timeliness. No one can accuse the book of being timid, unoriginal, irrelevant or removed from social and economic reality."
— National Political Science Review