White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (Hardcover)
as bad as I thought about
the same as I figured it
all bleeds together.
Carol Anderson's excellent new book provides layers of context for the anger displayed (and deployed). While she offers no solutions for this present moment that feels as though it is dragging down the future, it is because the weight of history itself has its own free-fall gravity. With the same precision and clarity that informed her much-discussed op-ed in the smoldering wake of Ferguson, which compelled her to dig even deeper into its historical precedents, Anderson's argument is stark. Namely, at every turn of U.S. history since the 13th Amendment, when black Americans were on the verge of democratic and economic advancement, if never quite unequivocal equality, there have been attending infernos of anger not only blocking the ways forward but charring the paths taken. The moral judgment of history is most damning when it repeats itself.
White Rage is a sobering, timely read that asks us to consider the enormity of the task at hand -- for white Americans not simply to educate themselves about the wrongs their privilege has inflicted, but to submit themselves to being educated by black Americans for the wrongs still being done.
As Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August 2014, and media commentators across the ideological spectrum referred to the angry response of African Americans as black rage, historian Carol Anderson wrote a remarkable op-ed in the Washington Post showing that this was, instead, white rage at work. With so much attention on the flames, she writes, everyone had ignored the kindling.
Since 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, every time African Americans have made advances towards full participation in our democracy, white reaction has fueled a deliberate and relentless rollback of their gains. The end of the Civil War and Reconstruction was greeted with the Black Codes and Jim Crow; the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was met with the shutting down of public schools throughout the South while taxpayer dollars financed segregated white private schools; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 triggered a coded but powerful response, the so-called Southern Strategy and the War on Drugs that disenfranchised millions of African Americans while propelling presidents Nixon and Reagan into the White House.
Carefully linking these and other historical flashpoints when social progress for African Americans was countered by deliberate and cleverly crafted opposition, Anderson pulls back the veil that has long covered actions made in the name of protecting democracy, fiscal responsibility, or protection against fraud, rendering visible the long lineage of white rage. Compelling and dramatic in the unimpeachable history it relates, White Rage will add an important new dimension to the national conversation about race in America.
About the Author
Carol Anderson is professor of African American studies at Emory University. She is the author of many books and articles, including Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960 and Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights: 1944-1955. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.