Book Review: When Minorities Lead in America: A Black Theologian’s Political Journey
Book Reviewed by Alexis E. Jackson
A worthwhile read, When Minorities Lead in America by Dr. Herman J. Fountain Jr. is one man’s theologically-influenced “political journey” to understanding the new America. Woven with Fountain’s upbringing and (sometimes) heartbreaking stories, we learn that a minority-led America, the “new majority,” is not too far off, and how this shift in power would impact wealth distribution, power, employment, and education (to name a few).
While this is hard to grasp, that a time will be reached with Latinos, African Americans, and immigrants running the system, Fountain makes very convincing claims regarding this societal transformation. He explains that the minority population is booming while the white population is deescalating; he lists the improvements and betterments that would arrive in America, with high employment rates, better funding for programs regarding impoverished and tried peoples, education at an all-time high, and more. He even goes so far as to examine what would happen if minorities instilled a mindset like that of our oppressors, and what would befall them.
Raised during and after the Civil Rights Movement, with the desegregation of schools, Fountain shares the importance of belonging to a community as a means to relieve societal pressures. His congregation became that place for him, a safe “sanctuary and healer for emotionally wounded black people.” This is a timeless piece of advice for any reader feeling down and desolate—there is always a community ready to accept you with open arms.
Similarly pleasing aspects of the text were Fountain’s poignant reflections on black culture regarding the media today. He makes an argument that we are currently affected by the “European standard of beauty that valued light skin over dark skin color,” and that light hair, light eyes, and straight hair are “in.” He even goes so far as to say that his grandmother was inclined to enjoy her lighter-skinned grandchildren more than the others and that a friend of his assumed that relaxed hair was more appropriate for the workplace.
As a woman of color with natural hair, I couldn’t agree more with this complicated notion. I often find myself wondering if my curly hair is too “crazy” for the professionalism I aspire for, pinning it all back into something “neater.” I’ve recently thrown all of that out of the window and decided that my hair is who I am and I will stay true to that.
But back to the point, Fountain believes that our society is diverse and that the media should represent its viewers accordingly. Can he get an “Amen?” AMEN!
A short thesis, When Minorities Lead in America was not without its faults and disappointments. Upon reading the introduction, I was under the impression that this would, primarily, be a dissertation of that thesis. When sub-chapter, “When White America Becomes a Minority,” and actual (fourth) chapter, “The America I Would Like to See,” finally surface, we spend a great deal of time with restatements and happenstance. Much of the information provided in chapter one, regarding the rise of the new majority and what will happen, is simply reiterated in these dedicated portions of the book. Similarly frustrating are his conclusions that are based on surmises from his personal experiences. Of course, we can recognize the struggle—the endless racism, the continuous discrimination from our peers, the police, and institutions, the inferiority complex forced upon us—but this text would be exponentially strengthened with the necessary citations and statistics, or, rather, inferences drawn from case studies and other mediums of factual information.
For example, Dr. Fountain shares some of his experiences as a warden at a prison, mostly housing incarcerated African Americans; he shares that some of them received less medical attention, harsher punishments, and more racial tension than their white counterparts. He was denied promotions because of the color of his skin and eventually left to pursue clerical work. He supports these stories of black misandry with evidence: court cases and critical readings. On the contrary, a large chunk of the book is spent listing black injustice, both personally and generally, but Fountain fails to cite any media-specific instances that could strengthen his theories. It is said that black schools were underfunded and underinvested; find documentation that breaks down these numbers compared to HW (historically white) institutions. He states that “substance abuse and violent behaviors are products of societal pressures that cause minorities to feel helpless and hopeless.” While readers could easily recognize the justification of this statement in the text, this is merely another generalization unsupported by numbers.
Fountain was especially dedicated to the sharing of his political journey, which really means his faith-inspired vehemence to the betterment of African Americans. While I am all-for spiritually-motivated texts, I couldn’t help but deem it a distraction here. I was particularly confounded by one of his final arguments: that a strong “vertical” perspective can soothe the aggravations and worries (regarding racism, classism, and the very Trump regime)—for any readers unfamiliar with this view, it is the belief that God is in control and that all that happens is not due to logic, reason, and human interaction, but is the will of God. If I was sipping on something, I may have combusted at Fountain’s prayer after the 2016 election:
God, I know you are real and that you are in charge of everything that occurs on the earth. I trust you with my life. Rather than [w]ring my hands in frustration, I look to you to see us through this experience. I’ve made up my mind to trust you. Please touch Trump’s heart to do the right thing toward minorities.
With that said, for any of us pragmatic, worldly readers, his unrelenting commitment to God and his promises may push us away. Funnily enough (or not), Fountain takes a surprising stab at dark comedy after sharing another story of micro-aggression with white workers at a fast food chain, exclaiming “There wasn’t going to be a lynching that night!” This was a stark contrast to the uplifting energy he generally exposed, so this was both snarky and surprising.
Although not as academic as I was expecting, Dr. Fountain’s concepts and anecdotes are enlightening in this world of negativity and defeat. If there is anything to be taken away from this text, it is what he offers in these very theories and stories—to always be compassionate to others, and to make a change, becoming that change, by being more involved with your community and the politics that effect it.