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Race: A History Beyond Black and White by…

Race: A History Beyond Black and White

by Marc Aronson

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(4Q, 3P) This was a fascinating book to read (and depressing as hell, too, but that's history's fault). It's a book which inspires introspection: would one have had the same atrocious ideas if one had lived in the past? Knowing how universal they were, even among thoughtful and scientifically minded people, it's hard to say "no" with any confidence. And yet this way of thinking is so alien to me, it's hard to grasp it. I'm certainly not going to declare myself free of prejudice (an announcement which nearly always precedes evidence to the contrary). But when the author speaks of harboring resentment in his heart towards modern Germans for the actions of the Nazis, it just doesn't compute for me; I just want to yell "but it's a completely different set of people!" Maybe it's my white privilege, which means I've never had to deal with this stuff in anything other than a detached, academic manner. Or maybe it's that I have personal experience with being lumped it with a group I don't identify with based on appearance, enough to make me violently allergic to doing that to anyone else.

I didn't know a lot of the history in this book, so it was great to get a chance to read it. However, from what I do know, I caught a couple of mistakes, most notably the claim that "Hitler hated all religion" (while he did persecute some religious groups, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses, he was also Catholic and explicitly advocated against secular schooling), which gets tossed out at atheists all the time. It's a minor point in the context of the book, but it does make me concerned about the accuracy of facts that I'm not as familiar with. ( )
  PlasticAtoms | May 28, 2013 |
3Q, 3P
  jwrosenzweig | May 26, 2011 |
4Q, 2.5P
"I believe that human beings are prejudiced. From the nightmares we have as children to the patterns of fear and flight we inherited from our most ancient ancestors, we are imprinted with a deep need to separate "us" and "them." As the Munduruku put it, we are human, you are pariwat. The society we live in then shapes what form that instinct for prejudice takes. Are we encouraged to believe our biases or to doubt them? Do we have contact with many types of people or only those who resemble us physically or share our beliefs?
The impulse to hatred is imprinted in us, and we are deeply influenced by the time and place in which we live. But we are not helpless." page 267-268
  rnc4 | May 11, 2010 |
3P, 4Q

Marc Aronson sets out to write a history of race for young people, and has created a compelling, well-researched book that inspires further study. Not sure how many young people would read the whole thing cover to cover, but it could be helpful for a research project or as a reference tool. The notes at the end of the book are an excellent resource in their own right. While the subtitle of the book is "a history beyond black and white," sometimes it did feel that black and white issues were the focus, and perhaps some more expansion would be helpful.

"In 1790, at the very beginning of the new nation, Congress passed a law allowing immigrants from other lands to become American citizens. They just needs to meet a few simple qualifications, starting with their race. Only "free white people" were eligible. Unbelievable as it may seem, this law remained on the books until 1952." - p 136

"The Portuguese controlled the European slave trade with Africa until the 1600s and established the foundation for African slavery in the Americas. Though history books often make it seem as if slaves who survived the Middle Passage were taken to North America, this was rarely the case. By far the large majority of slaves were brought to Portuguese Brazil and only from there sold to the Caribbean and later North America." - p 102
  Gretab09 | May 1, 2010 |
Reviewed by Me for TeensReadToo.com

When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, the members of the General Congress of the then thirteen United States of America declared: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."

Did they mean it? Does anyone who says it now, that "all men are created equal," really mean it? Exactly what importance does race play in how we are treated, in how we are perceived, and in how we treat and perceive others? What, exactly, is race to begin with?

Is race defined by the color of our skin? Are we White or Black, Hispanic or Asian, Indian or Arabic? Or is race based on where our ancestors originated from? Are we Greek or Roman, Polish or European? Or, in fact, is race based on our religious beliefs? Are we Christian, Muslim, Jewish?

Marc Aronson has no clear-cut answers, and neither does science or history. The true fact of the matter is that race is a belief, and everyone believes differently. Just as racial prejudice is a learned mindset, so is how we view race. There have always been, and probably always will be, those human beings who see other humans as inferior. Although we can hope that one day prejudice will be a thing of the past, I don't think that anyone, when being completely honest with themselves, hasn't fallen victim at least once to being prejudicial to another person based on some idea of race.

RACE is a fascinating look into the history of the human belief system as regards to the teachings of race in all of its disguises, whether the color of our skin, our ethnic background, or our religion. It's a great learning tool that would be well used in classrooms or as independent study for anyone who wishes to study the matter further. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 12, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0689865546, Hardcover)

Race. You know it at a glance: he's black; she's white. They're Asian; we're Latino.

Racism. I'm better; she's worse. Those people do those kinds of things.

We all know it's wrong to make these judgments, but they come faster than thought.

Why? Where did those feelings come from? Why are they so powerful? Why have millions been enslaved, murdered, denied their rights because of the color of their skin, the shape of their eyes?

Acclaimed young-adult historian Marc Aronson tackles these and other questions in this astounding book, which traces the history of racial prejudice in Western culture back to ancient Sumer and beyond. He shows us Greeks dividing the world into civilized and barbarian, medieval men writing about the traits of monstrous men, until, finally, Enlightenment scientists scrap all those mythologies and come up with a new one: charts spelling out the traits of human races.

Aronson's journey of discovery yields many surprising discoveries. For instance, throughout most of human history, slavery had nothing to do with race. In fact, the idea of race itself did not exist in the West before the 1600s. But once the idea was established and backed up by "scientific" theory, its influence grew with devastating consequences, from the appalling lynchings in the American South to the catastrophe known as the Holocaust in Europe.

With one hundred images, this is a dynamic, thought-provoking work-history as quest, written as only Marc Aronson could do it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:51 -0400)

Race. You know it at a glance: he's black; she's white. They're Asian; we're Latino. Racism. I'm better; she's worse. Those people do those kinds of things. We all know it's wrong to make these judgments, but they come faster than thought. Why? Where did those feelings come from? Why are they so powerful?… (more)

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