Afterword: Other Americas

In an article published by Harper’s Magazine in July 1991, James Traub, a white journalist, reported that participants on “The Gary Byrd Show,” a New York City-based black radio talk show, insisted on attributing nearly every event adversely affecting African Americans to racist conspiracies. Traub titled his article “A CounterReality Grows in Harlem,” and he was clearly shocked and dismayed by what he saw as the widespread irrationalism, even paranoia, of Harlem’s black residents. His article suggested that the emergence of this counterreality was a measure of the dangerous isolation of certain segments of African America from the rest of America: Harlem as hothouse. Fast forward to the fall of 1996: the CIA is accused of flooding urban African-American communities with crack. This time it is not black talk radio but the San Jose Mercury News that breaks the story. While whites are shocked and dismayed by the allegations, African Americans are far more willing to believe them; the suspicion that the United States Government introduced crack cocaine to black communities iii order to pacify or destroy them has been circulating for years.