The Events and Message of Adam Mansbach’s Angry Black White Boy
The concept of an entire race being born into a system subconsciously and socially degrading them is appalling. Underprivileged and undeserving, these unfortunate people groups are cast into mediocrity and suppressed under the unbearable weight of white supremacy. African Americans in particular experience this at as great or greater a degree as any other race, as is vividly displayed in Adam Mansbach’s Angry Black White Boy, a novel that satirically describes the unfortunate circumstances of blacks in America through a masterful narrative and polarizing truths about white society.
Following white Jew Macon Detornay, who better self-identifies with black culture, Angry Black White Boy exposes the atrocities in both obvious and covert Caucasian view of blacks. Early in the text, the Bostonian college freshman and descendant of the legendary and notoriously racist first baseman “Cap Anson”, moves to New York to attend Colombia University, where he rooms with Andre Walker, the descendant of the famously-tormented-by-Cap-Anson baseball player “Fleet” Walker. Macon quickly gets a job as a taxi driver, an occupation which further exposes the self-absorption of whites in their loose-tongued conversations with both Macon and their colleagues. Frustrated and angered with the self-righteous attitudes of his passengers, Macon begins robbing them, stealing their wallets and neckties. Feeling as though his efforts are teaching the “white devil(s)” (Mansbach 24) a lesson, he is understandably displeased when the police reports of his actions describe a black thief, as his victims are unable to connect their recollection of the events to Macon’s white face. Furious, Macon clearly displays his face to his next victim, demanding the displeased backseat rider to confirm his ethnicity, “Take a good look. What fucking color am I?” (Mansbach 112). Titled “Trader”, the first book in this novel refers to Macon trading his whiteness for black culture, hanging up his Bean boots in exchange for some fresh Jordan’s, as he begins his crusade for equality and reparation for the sins of his ancestors.
The second book, “Traitor”, foretells in its title Macon’s downfall in regards to his commitment to the Race Traitor Project cause, and his subsequent abandonment of it. The book begins with Downing and McGrath, New York’s white-as-the-crack-epidemic Batman and Robin police duo, arriving at Colombia to arrest Macon since he fits the description of his last victim’s recollection of the robbery. After being beaten by the police in the car, Macon is taken to a holding cell where he remained only for a short while until Andre and his friend Nique bailed him out. Upon his release, Macon discovers that his heroics have spread quickly throughout the news and catapulted him to stardom, and paparazzi have been waiting in mass outside the police station. In his first public speaking, Macon declares the bold mission statement of what will be his campaign for long-awaited justice, “White people aren’t evil, but evil is white people.” (Mansbach 144). Preceded by Nique energizing the crowd, Macon holds a poetry reading at one two fifth and Lenox, where Malcolm X preached, where he narrates a self-written piece outlining his beliefs of America’s racial system and treatment of African Americans. He then speaks controversially on a radio station, followed by a television talk show where he speaks of the racist mental processes of whites when they see a black person in various circumstances. Finally, Macon then goes on another talk show, Pedantic Perspectives, where he boldly declares, on behalf of his “Race Traitor Project”, the upcoming Friday to be the first annual “Day of Apology” (Mansbach 204) in New York. The purpose of the event is for white people to apologize to blacks for all of the ways in which they have mistreated, judged, or wrongly viewed them. At the following rally on the Day of Apology, Macon begins to witness the mutation of his idea, as the common white interpretation is to immerse themselves in black culture, donning flamboyant African-American attire and listening to their music. White appropriation of black culture is an age-old practice, through white’s assumption of black music and its production once it was viewed as profitable and many other aspects (George 1-21). After making the crowd aware of their inaccuracy of interpretation, Macon sends them out to apologize, hoping they will come to understand the meaning of the event through executing it. Juxtaposed with the misinterpretation of those mentioned previously, Mansbach then describes several circumstances of the genuine, intended purposed of the event being carried out. While walking the streets of New York, Macon, Nique, and Andre witness the chaos ensuing when several are killed in a conflict initiated by a racist white man calling Macon a “nigger lover” (Mansbach 250) who fires a pistol at them repeatedly. Firing into the air with Macon’s gun, Nique’s bullet falls and kills a Black Hebrew protestor, while the bullet of the assailant ricochet and struck a white woman that had been trying to apologize to blacks, but to no avail. In order to stop the madness, Macon goes on local news to say that he has realized the white race is incapable of redemption and tells them they would be best to kill themselves. He then places a gun in his own mouth and realizes that he himself is unwilling to die for the cause. Macon steals the news station van and abandons his friends, his cause and chiefly, his beliefs.
Arriving in New Jersey at the start of book 3, “Race”, Macon boards a bus to go to Los Angeles and falls asleep. Upon waking, he finds that he is in Alabama and decides to get off the bus and go use a pay phone to contact Nique and Andre, where he discovers that Nique has assumed command. Nique then makes a proposal to Macon that he meet with Dr. Conway Donner, descendant of “Red Donner” who famously died a martyr for Fleet Walker, who desires Macon’s established platform to market his psychological methods of modifying the image and cultural identity of people to whatever they choose. Macon meets with him and declines and before boarding the bus again, he goes into a store to acquire food for his trip. Unknowingly to Macon, the rednecks that recognize and kidnap him and another black man (who also is involved in the arrangement) in the store are all part of an elaborate scheme constructed by Nique and Dr. Donner to display the effectiveness of his program. Being taken out to a remote location, Macon is given the choice to punch the black man or be shot, and he punches him. He is then handed the gun to kill the man but he, as expected, attempts to use it on his captors. Finding it is empty, Nique and Dr. Donner arrive to reveal the truth to Macon and once again make their bid for his endorsement. One of the kidnappers, Burleigh, sees letting Macon live as a “goddamn crime against humanity” (Mansbach 334), before declaring that Macon is no longer white. He then shoots Macon in the head, solidifying his martyrdom for a cause that he seemingly abandoned in its time of greatest need.
Rumored to have been extinguished long ago with slavery now being a relic of our nation’s blemished history and the Civil Rights movements being so effective, racial issues are often disregarded in the aspect of their relevancy today. Mansbach clearly challenges and effectively supports the fact that this is not the case, as racist agenda still runs rampant throughout the country, stampeding over those receiving the blunt of its baton. Macon’s pathos is established through his genuine and respectful appropriation of black culture, while many other figures establish credibility off of their own experiences, such as Jay-Z in “Coming of Age”, “chasin’ crackheads up the block for my pay” (Jay-Z 43) referencing his own life as a drug dealer. Relevant and unresolved, racism’s presence is transparently exposed throughout the entire riveting plot in Angry Black White Boy.
Mansbach, Adam. Angry Black White Boy, Or, The Miscegenation of Macon Detornay: A Novel. 1st ed. New York: Three Rivers, 2005. Print.
Jay-Z. Decoded. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2010. Print.
George, Nelson. Hip Hop America. New York: Viking, 1998. Print.
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