Cover image for The reckoning : what Blacks owe to each other
The reckoning : what Blacks owe to each other
Robinson, Randall, 1941-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, [2002]

Physical Description:
viii, 290 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.86 .R73 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E185.86 .R73 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E185.86 .R73 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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In The Reckoning, Robinson provides startling insights into prominent Americans' roles in the crime and poverty that grip much of urban America, and rallies black Americans to speak out -and reach back -to ensure that the largely forgotten poor of black America get their chance at the American dream. The Reckoning grew out of Robinson's work with gang members, ex-convicts, and others profoundly scarred by environments of extreme poverty and its unshakable shadow -crime. The Reckoning pays homage to residents of these neighborhoods waging heroic struggles to free their communities from economic blight and social pathology. Robinson calls on black Americans of all ages and classes to join this crucial battle to bring the residents of America's inner cities to safe harbor.

Author Notes

Randall Robinson is the founder and president of TransAfrica. Frequently featured in major print media, he has appeared on The Charlie Rose Show, Today, Good Morning America, 20/20, 60 Minutes, The Tom Joyner Show, and BET, among others

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Following The Debt [BKL Ja 1 & 15 00], in which Robinson presented the case for reparations to black Americans for slavery, this time he gives readers an introspective look at the obligations financially secure black Americans have to those African Americans who are less fortunate. The book was partly inspired by a chance encounter with Peewee Kirkland, a legendary high-school and playground basketball player, whose street crimes landed him in prison and later led to a career as a social reformer. Kirkland's business acumen was reflected in the financing of six-figure deals by the age of 15, and later involvement in Wall Street scams. Robinson relates the stark contrast between the consequences of Kirkland's misdeeds and those faced by his white counterparts. But Robinson focuses on the lesson of Kirkland's and other lives: that black Americans need to recognize that they themselves must act to stop the downward spiral of African Americans. He advocates that those who are better off financially must reach out with authentic leadership, talent, and money. --Vernon Ford

Publisher's Weekly Review

With the bestselling The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, Robinson, founder of the policy group TransAfrica, became a prominent voice for U.S. slavery reparations. Rather than a follow-up to The Debt, this book reads like a similarly impassioned extension of it. Robinson, in his powerful, polemical style, finds that "246 years of slavery and the century of government-embraced racial discrimination" have produced a devastating legacy for young African-Americans: "We are still slaves. The chains are inside us now. They turn our spirits mean, our hearts into metallic chambers.... They render our memories empty, our vision short, our song coarse, our fathers broken, our mothers bereaved." His prime example here is the criminal justice system, and the spine of this rather diffuse book is the story of Pee Wee Kirkland, who became a criminal (and basketball legend) growing up poor in 1950s Harlem, but who ultimately reformed. Along the way, Robinson makes some compelling points: the criminal justice system is disproportionately black and poor, prisons benefit poor white communities and Caucasian white-collar criminals get treated more gently than black convicts from the street. He criticizes fellow blacks for supporting politicians like Bill Clinton who he thinks furthered such injustices. As with the previous book, Robinson is short on practical analyses, but despite being less about what blacks owe each other than about the injustices continually in the offing, this book-length lament may further liberation. (Feb.) Forecast: Though post-9/11 concerns may diminish attention paid to this book, Robinson will be listened to, especially by the core constituency that read The Debt. He will soon join a class action suit against the U.S. government for reparations on behalf of the descendants of slaves. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this energetic and provocative work, Robinson (The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks) addresses the responsibility of African Americans toward one another. With the fury of Eldridge Cleaver, the straightforwardness of Malcolm X, and the intellectual rigor of W.E.B. DuBois, Robinson explores the growing gap between inner-city African Americans and acknowledged African American leaders in an America where the alienation of the individual is outpaced only by the commercialization of every facet of existence. Robinson is as disgusted with African American despair and hopelessness as he is with a national prison-industrial complex supported by the mass incarceration of African Americans and Hispanics to secure economic benefits for predominantly white suburbs. His disappointment with a black leadership that has forsaken its people is equally evident. Though much more forceful in rejecting and critiquing prevailing practices than articulating concrete solutions, this book is still essential reading for all Americans. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/01.] Edward K. Owusu-Ansah, Coll. of Staten Island Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The story that is the centerpiece of this book is true. The names of its principal characters, Peewee Kirkland, New Child Lynch, and Mark Lawrence, are real. I have changed the names of others for reasons that will become obvious. I do not venture in this telling far afield of the events of the lives remarked here. You, no doubt, would have puzzled out the reasons for this narrowness of compass on your own. Sometimes, very old, very broad stories are best told small, in consumable units of observed lives, replete with travail and stunted prospect. Social data, the scholar's tool, serve well enough in conveying the trend and breadth of social conditions. But the usefulness of the academician's bar graph ends there, bleaching from general view the searing pain and hopelessness borne by the modern, uncomprehending victims of old, obscure, and oft-transmuted American social policies. To understand the full damage that America has done to the black world over the last 346 years, we must extrapolate the general from the specific, not the other way around. The young black men whose stories are told here represent the gravely endangered generation of the fathers of our future. They, like the millions who comprise their peer ranks, were born into the rigged game of dysfunctional families, variably crippling poverty, poor education, and all but nonexistent opportunity for long-term success. Some of them miraculously survive; a few, even, like Mark Lawrence and Peewee Kirkland, with an abiding exercise of fatherlike duty towards the many like New Child Lynch who are forced to contend with social obstacles that no child in a "civilized" society should ever be compelled to confront. Such are the legacies for American blacks after 246 years of slavery and the century of government-embraced racial discrimination that followed on slavery's heels. One hundred and thirty-eight years after the Emancipation Proclamation, our young men, slavery's grandsons, are six times more likely to be arrested for a serious crime than are their white counterparts. After arrest, they are more likely than their white counterparts to be prosecuted and convicted. Upon conviction, they serve prison sentences roughly twice as long as those served by whites for the same crimes. From birth, black inner-city males are strapped onto a hard-life treadmill leading all too often toward early death or jail. While the United States has the highest incarceration rate of any nation in the world, Washington, D.C., the nation's capital, has one of the highest in America. More than one in every three black men in the District of Columbia between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five falls under one or another arm of the criminal justice system. Prisons, increasingly under private ownership, are a growth industry. Nothing inflates prison stock prices like the growing ranks of American prisoners, the majority of whom are being held for nonviolent crimes and, all too many, in places like Washington, D.C., well past the times set by the courts. Public funds are being used to subsidize a national private prison industry whose growth depends on higher incarceration rates. Said differently, society is subsidizing its own demise for the benefit of private investors. The investors are disproportionately white. The prisoners are disproportionately black. Inside the new private hells, prisoners toil for private companies, earning but a pittance while undercutting the wages of nonprison labor. Owing to the extremely low wages for prison labor, the companies that employ prisoners constitute, not surprisingly, still another new growth industry. Towards this modern bondage, down this human cattle chute, black males from birth are being herded willy-nilly before our very eyes. It is this new de facto slavery that benefits the same private interests, transmogrified, that its predecessor institution benefited centuries before. In my last book, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, I argued that only massive American government reparations can begin to repair the devastating economic and psychosocial injury done to blacks in America since 1619 at the hands of, first, the colonial governments, and, later, the American government. But while broad programmatic restitution can insure for African-Americans a future, it cannot salvage a living generation of African-American men and women who are being, in alarming numbers, lost to the black community as wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, breadwinners, and responsible social contributors. This, we must do for ourselves. Excerpted from The Reckoning: What Blacks Owe to Each Other by Randall Robinson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
1. The Luncheonp. 5
2. My Thoughts As Peewee Waits to Speakp. 39
3. Peewee's Speechp. 51
4. Deja Vup. 57
5. Playing the Hand You Are Dealtp. 65
6. Peewee's Revengep. 75
7. The Aspiring American Entrepreneurp. 83
8. Peewee's Fatherp. 101
9. Wadleigh Junior High Schoolp. 113
10. Peewee and the White Stockbrokerp. 117
11. Wealth, Privilege, Social Class, and Racep. 131
12. Washington, D.C., in the Year 2076p. 147
13. New York, 1964p. 189
14. False Exitsp. 199
15. Peewee Goes to Prisonp. 207
16. New Child Lynchp. 219
17. Walk-up Retailp. 241
18. Aubrey Lynchp. 253
19. Peewee and New Child: Saving Themselves and Saving Othersp. 263
Afterwordp. 269
My Pleap. 271
Indexp. 277
Acknowledgmentsp. 291