"I have a feeling you're a big doubter," said Michele Wallace after we had talked for an hour.
"I'm not attempting to be fair to anyone," she declared. "I'm attempting to present a point of view -- mine. My concern [in writing her book] was not to be reasonable but to get in touch with my gut feelings."
Wallace's gut feelings, however, seem to be the fantasies of a well-intentioned but callow thinker.
"The driving force behind the [black] movement had really very little to do with bread and butter needs," she wrote in her book. The motive was revenge. It was not equality that was primarily being pursued but a kind of superiority -- black manhood, black macho...."
Does Wallace understand the recent history of this country?
I saw black men reacting angrily to unemployment and police brutality in civil disturbances in Newark, Buffalo, the District. They weren't trying to establish a macho image. They were striking back at what they felt was an oppressive force.
And many times it was out of blind rage. The men I saw destroying a supermarket on 14th Street in 1968 following Martin Luther King's death said they wanted to retaliate for a leader's death.
On a deeper level they probably were asserting their masculinity.But they weren't trying to put down women. White America was the object of their fury.
Wallace also said: "Some 1966, the black man had two pressing tasks before him: a white woman in every bed and a black woman under every heel."
Black men think of themselves primarily as sexual creatures, she asserted. Black women have swallowed the matriarchal theory giving them super powers. Nevertheless, black men, she said, define black women.
Sound simplistic? You bet it does.
Black male-white female relationships are a hot topic for after-dinner conversation among blacks these days. Many times I've seen the subject raised by black women and immediately black men discover they have to go to the bathroom or they simply slide down in their chairs, feigning drowsiness or fatigue. Anything to avoid talking about the issue.
Black men don't deny the importance of the issue. Interracial relationships threaten group stability.
However, Wallace, like many black women, has blown the problem out of proportion. The large majority of black men are not chasing white women. They are trying to establish relationships with black women.
Wallace gets equal heated treatment from black feminists as well as black males.
Barbara Smith, a Boston-based black feminist, has called the book "disturbing, if not dangerous."
"The book is anti-black male. She pays little attention to the superstructure of white male rule.And it has no sound political analysis."
Wallace warms up the old confrontation between the followers of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. She's clearly a Malcolm disciple. For her -- and she says, for black men under 35 -- King was "a dream of masculine softness and beauty, an almost feminine man..." On the other hand, "Malcolm was virile, strong and generated a powerful, fearsome presence."
She has fallen for rhetoric and streetcorner antics. King, whose courage allowed him to practice nonviolence, moved masses of people. He didn't shrink from the idea of death. Without him, she probably wouldn't exist as a writer.
Malcolm's legacy, one of tough political talk against whites and puritanical religious fervor, has not weathered time as well as King. Where are his followers today? He is more a personal symbol than a real social and political influence.
So where does Wallace leave us? The white man has been racist and the black man has failed the black women. But all that's in the past. The future is something blacks can control.
"The imperative is clear," she ended the book. "Either we will make history or remain the victims of it."
That's as simplistic as the thinking of women who want to take over the world. The implication is that women are going to become masculine and men are going to start having babies.
But then maybe Wallace is going to change her mind. "I would write the book differently now," she said. "I've grown past that stage. That's just my first book."