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White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial…
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White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide

by Carol Anderson

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This book was life-changing for me. There is so much about American history that was not taught to me in school, and I feel completely betrayed by the educational system of the country. It deeply angers me that the true history of this country has been whitewashed and continues to be. Further, the United States tells other countries that they are committing violations of human rights while we have our own policies of ethnic cleansing at home.

Many may wonder why racism seems to still be such a problem in America, but it really is no wonder when those responsible for instating the cruelty of slavery were never made to atone for their sins. This includes not only the confederates who were pardoned by President Johnson rather than punished, this also includes the Europeans who brought slavery to the New World. It continues to this day with discriminatory and restrictive practices everywhere in the country that pushes people out of neighborhoods through policy and neglect to intervene.

Hiding behind “states’ rights,” the Supreme Court allowed states to instate black codes that basically created an indentured servant class from newly freed slaves. Meanwhile when blacks were murdered by lynching, the courts called the justice system fair.

After years of open punishment and discrimination, blacks began to move north for better opportunities – 500,000 African Americans moved north of the Mason-Dixon Line between 1917 and 1918. This upended the social structure of the south as they lost a large portion of their underpaid labor. This in turn incited laws against labor agents in order to keep blacks trapped in their labor situations. Blacks were arrested without cause and were otherwise prevented from leaving the south.

In addition, laws restricting voting targeted black Americans. In 1960, more than 98% of blacks in Mississippi and Alabama were not permitted to vote. When the NAACP attempted to repeal the restrictions aimed at African American voters, the organization was banned in southern states or were forced to list their members publicly, putting a large target on those affiliated.

Meanwhile in the north, whites began to rail against blacks in housing and education matters. Blacks were pushed into slums with increasingly poor conditions and increasingly higher rents. Schools in black neighborhoods were wholly inadequate and underfunded. When Brown vs Board of Education required integration of schools, white parents chose to place their children in private schools rather than have their children schooled with black children. And this is where the schools actually integrated. Many southern states flat-out refused to integrate and municipalities chose to close their schools altogether rather than allow integration.

Potently today, after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts passed, a contingent of those in power were able to reduce centuries of oppression to a few causes, such as the ability to sit at a lunch counter or drink at a water fountain. By diminishing the root causes of discrimination, those in power were able to change the language surrounding racial discrimination by minimizing the need for civil rights. Using the Klu Klux Klan as the enemy, powerful whites could make racism out to be an individual problem of overt racists instead of the systemic problems of the entire country. This time period also put racist language underground. Rather than blatant racism, leaders began to use dog-whistle political code language, such as law and order and states’ rights.

Anderson also dives into initiatives and failures to act of modern-day presidents that have enforced discrimination against African Americans. From civil rights enforcement and housing discrimination to lack of funding in urban areas and prison sentencing for drug crimes, legislation and policy sought to enable the racist system that has been part of the United States of America since day one.

The rest of the world sees the United States much more clearly than we can see ourselves. However, I realize my own whiteness in that statement. There are citizens in this country that see more clearly because they have been forced to see the hypocrisy and discrimination through their own experiences.

At this point, I cannot go back. I can’t unhear the code words I now know exist in the political rhetoric. I can’t unsee that the neighborhood I grew up in created a space where African Americans were not invited. I can’t unsmell the hypocrisy of our local, state, and national institutions. I can’t undo the damage that our country has caused itself by never atoning for its sins. But now that I know more of the truth, I can continue to search for even more truth and share what I have learned with others and speak out when I see inequities and racism.
  Carlie | Sep 22, 2017 |
Harrowing and meticulously argued. Should be required reading in every high school. ( )
  cdogzilla | Sep 4, 2017 |
Best for: All white people in the U.S. right now.

In a nutshell: Dr. Anderson shares a concise history of all the shit black people have gone through because of the anger white people feel when black people start to make even a little bit of progress.

Line that sticks with me: All of them. Seriously, I underlined, circled, or commented on all but maybe three pages in this book.

Okay, fine, here’s one: “Somehow many have convinced themselves that the man who pulled the Unites States back into some semblance of financial health, reduced unemployment to its lowest level in decades, secured health insurance for millions of citizens, ended one of our recent, all-too-intractable wars in the Middle East, reduced the staggering deficit he inherited from George W. Bush, and masterminded the takedown of Osama bin Laden actually hates America.” (p 157)

Why I chose it: Because after the tiki-torch white supremacist violent rally and the subsequent murder of a counter-protester and beating of a black man by these racist assholes, I needed to read something. So I went to my happy place, our local independent bookstore, and wandered around until I found this.

Review: This book is phenomenal. It is poetic and yet extremely straightforward. Dr. Anderson exercises an economy of language that I envy, as she is able to tell a compelling and undeniable history of racism against black people in the U.S. in just over 160 pages. But I thought it was much longer when I bought it, because Dr. Anderson includes OVER 60 PAGES of notes at the end. She isn’t just telling a story, she’s backing up each statement with a source.

Dr. Anderson divides the book into just five elegant chapters, plus a brief prologue and epilogue. Each chapter takes on a section of U.S. history: reconstruction, great migration, education segregation, backlash to civil rights, and the continued destruction of voting rights. The premise is that white people have such an inability to handle black people making any strides forward that they react with new and creative ways to work the system to try to push them back down.

The detail in each chapter is phenomenal. Dr. Anderson shows how horribly white people have treated black people in the this country every time there is a hint that they may be making some progress away from the discriminatory systems put in place by those same white people. How southern states passed laws to not just punish black people laboring within their state, but to prevent them from ever leaving to pursue better work elsewhere. How one school district closed its doors to all students for FIVE YEARS rather than integrate. How fuckers like Scott Walker (I originally wrote Wallace instead, probably since he seems to be the spiritual son of George Wallace) did everything they could to disenfranchise thousands of people in his state.

In the epilogue, Dr. Anderson mentions Republican candidate Donald Trump’s promise to “take our country back.” I hope that there is a paperback update in the works, and that she is able to add a section of what has happened in these past few years. I did, however, hear her on a podcast this week discussing Charlottesville. You can hear her in the August 16, 2017 episode here: http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510312/codeswitch

Reading this book with the current events in the background caused my jaw to tighten and my pulse to race. I’m not naive. I know that the history of white people in the country is horrific. I know that that history didn’t end with the Civil War, or the Civil Rights movement. I was not surprised by what happened in Charlottesville, nor was I surprised by the President* coming down firmly on the side of neo-Nazis and white supremacists. But this book brings some of that history home. It gives me something to point to if I encounter a white person who is ignorant of how what is going on today is not that different from what white people have been doing to black people since the Emancipation Proclamation, but has a genuine desire to learn more. It gives me specific examples to point to when the asshole white people I encounter act like this shit hasn’t been going on forever.

As I said up top, I think all white people in the U.S. need to read this book. Share it with people and keep it in mind as you take to the streets to stand up against white supremacists. But also keep it in mind when you’re at work and someone starts to complain about affirmative action, or you’re out with friends and someone tries to suggest that there’s no problem with voter ID laws, or your state legislature thinks its fine to continue using neighborhood property taxes to disparately fund schools. Because while we should all obviously be letting the Nazi cosplayers know their hate isn’t acceptable, we also need to know that not all racism comes in the form of a white hood or white polo shirt and khakis. It’s systemic and will take all of us working to change it. ( )
1 vote ASKelmore | Aug 17, 2017 |
Powerful and brief is good in my book. I have done lots of reading in the area of white supremacist ideology and US history with respect to government and legal policies respecting African Americans, and this is a punchy and well written short volume that traces the consistent betrayal of our stated ideals when it comes down to a showdown with ensuring continued white dominance. And, I would disagree with the reviewer who said there wasn't much new here. There were a couple of new revelations to me , including President Andrew Johnson's championing of free 160 acre giveaways to poor whites while opposing dividing the liberated plantations to the formerly enslaved who had worked it -- to cite just one example. A highly recommended read/listen. ( )
  johnjmeyer | Jul 7, 2017 |
Powerful, brief history of Racism and its roots. It is so clear that racism remains alive and well in the US and we need to change that. ( )
  bness2 | May 23, 2017 |
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