Review of David Ikard’s Lovable Racists, Magical Negroes, and White Messiahs

One of the great things about being part of a university is that our part-timers tend to be students—and tend to be engaged with the content of the books we publish. Here’s an example: a review by Tunisia Kenyatta, an undergrad who, when we’re not loading her down with work for our publicity team, studies in the Department of Comparative Race and Ethnic Studies.

“As I was writing this book, America felt like it was on fire . . .”

– David Ikard


Full of contemplative, sobering analyses, Lovable Racists, Magical Negroes, and White Messiahs identifies, defines, and locates the origin of white supremacist tropes, presenting strikingly clear pictures of the methods and manifestations of each. While asserting that he who controls the master narrative controls the perception of reality, Ikard offers compelling criticism of this reality as he engages with the work and insights of black artists and activists like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Frederick Douglas, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. In addition to addressing racially biased political campaigns and administrations, Ikard examines how media coverage of Hurricane Katrina, Sandy Hook, and the Charleston shooting show how racial bias raises its head even in tragedy. Rich in reference to literature and media, this book leaves no stone unturned, making it increasingly obvious that America has yet to confront its history of white supremacy and, therefore, remains steeped in it, every past practice met with its modern parallel.

The book ends by stating that “white supremacy is most dangerous when it can avoid being named or identified.” When in a white supremacist environment, virtually all behaviors and fears toward black life have tremendous currency, keeping the tropes alive because there is little incentive for white Americans to abandon them. In light of the cultural climate today, Lovable Racists, Magical Negroes, and White Messiahs is submerged in the critical analysis necessary to dismantle these pervasive white supremacist tropes, which trivialize white culpability in black oppression to the point of lethal consequence. This is achieved all while maintaining a lens that accounts for the complexities that intersections of gender, sexuality, and class produce.

The fire Ikard referenced continues to rage, as we are met with a resurgence of white supremacist ideals, making this book required reading today and for the foreseeable future.