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Black on White: Black Writers on What It…

Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White

by David R. Roediger

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An excellent, thought-provoking collection. It is so rare that White people "look behind the mirror", so to speak, and see themselves through other's eyes. Roediger is obviously one of the most important scholars working on issues of Whiteness, and this book is important as well as fascinating. ( )
  schraubd | Apr 2, 2011 |
A collection of short classics on the narrow but interesting topic of just what is it with these white people anyway. The book provides a nice introduction to the work of a great number of excellent African American writers, so it is a good starting place for anyone interested in beginning a journey into African American thought and literature.

Read this book, and if you find, for example, that you like Derrick Bell's essay on whiteness as property, well, then you can look a bit further and read his books on the history of the civil rights movements, gospel choirs, or Brown v. Board of Education. Or, if you've only read Toni Morrison's fiction, you may enjoy beginning to explore her other work with the excerpt from her book Playing in the Dark.

But even if Black on White weren't a good place to begin exploring literature, it would be worth your time, and here's why: the idea of race has largely been defined and explicated by the people who have the most opportunity for expression: white people. An analysis of what whiteness is, what it means, how it works, and what it's for -- but one conceived and written by Black people -- is bound to be fresh and interesting.

So, if you think racism and the idea of race definitions are wrong, or even if you aren't angry about it, but you do think it's a bit silly, then take a few hours to consider what Black people have to say about whiteness.

(Unfortunately, Black on White has no index or other supplemental endmatter.)
  ruby | Oct 30, 2005 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805211144, Paperback)

American literature boasts a long history of white authors writing about blacks. From Harriet Beecher Stowe's abolitionist novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, to Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray's controversial study of ethnicity and intelligence, The Bell Curve, the right of white writers to examine the lives of black people is accepted without comment. But where are the commentaries by black writers on white culture? They exist, to be sure--Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Zora Neale Hurston, to name just a few, have all written on the subject of "white folk"--but little if any of this work ever makes it into the consciousness of mainstream America. This new anthology might just change all that.

Edited by David R. Roediger, Black on White brings together some of the most succinct writing ever on what it means to be white--from the African American point of view. Consider, for example, William J. Wilson's satiric "What Shall We Do with the White People?":

For many centuries now have they been on this continent; and for many years have they had entire rule and sway; yet they are today no nearer the solution of the problem, "are they fit for self-government"--than they were at the commencement of their career.
Or bell hooks's critical "Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination":
Usually white students respond with naïve amazement that black people critically assess white people from a standpoint where "whiteness" is the privileged signifier. Their amazement that black people watch white people with a critical "ethnographic" gaze, is itself an expression of racism.
Toni Morrison, Amiri Baraka, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, and Alice Walker are just a few of the heavy-hitters included in an anthology that runs the gamut of African American writers and thinkers. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:31 -0400)

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