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Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White Paperback – January 9, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-0805211146 ISBN-10: 0805211144 Edition: 1st Pbk. Ed

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; 1st Pbk. Ed edition (January 9, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805211144
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805211146
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,034 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

From Library Journal

These two books belong to a growing body of work that examines white identity through African American writings. Historian Roediger (Towards the Abolition of Whiteness, Norton, 1994) here collects illuminating views of "whiteness" from black writers ranging from such early figures as the revolutionary David Walker to contemporaries like Toni Morrison. Some of the expected sources are here, including James Baldwin's Going To Meet the Man and Richard Wright's Black Boy, but among several delightful surprises are George S. Schuyler's essay "Our White Folks" and Alice Walker's "The Dummy in the Window: Joel Chandler Harris and the Invention of Uncle Remus." Although the anthology includes a range of perspectives, Roediger has essentially excluded "the more reflexively antiwhite tradition represented (at times) by the nation of Islam, or by Leonard Jeffries's recent writing on whites." This results in some notable omissions, including Malcom X. Still, this is a valubable collection that should go a long way in helping us to understand America's troubled racial relations. Recommended for all collections. Sartwell (philosophy, Pennsylvania State Univ.) analyzes the perception of whiteness in the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Malcolm X, and contemporary rap music. He contends that whites, in seeking to establish their identity as the norm, ultimately render themselves invisible. Furthermore, white identity is typically constructed in comparison with nonwhite identities, often portraying the latter as inferior, he notes. Through the writings of African Americans, Sartwell believes whiteness can be viewed in a more objective manner. At the same time that he seeks to elucidate the texts, he grapples with his own whiteness. In the process, he has presented an engaging though disturbing investigation of the complex politics of identity. Recommended for academic libraries.?Louis J. Parascandola, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn Campus, NY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By HoosierNan on April 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
I saw this book in the public library and had to check it out. As a white woman who is concerned about civil rights issues, I felt I had to read it. Well, it was certainly eye-opening and uncomfortable in some places.

These African-American authors and cartoonists, featured in these essays, excerpts, and visual art representations, did not pull back from their feelings and observations. They said what they meant, and meant what they said! Their viewpoints were vastly different from mine, and I had to stop and really THINK about it, sometimes in mid-paragraph. That they were telling the truth, from their perspective, cannot be denied.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Deborah on January 21, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Surprisingly candid perspective on the Caucasian American. This was purchased as a text for a course in Communicating Across Cultures an its a keeper. I have not completed the book, but I am 'meeting' an array of writers from a range of era through the 1900's.

You can sit down and plow through, but I am enjoying a small grouping of 'chapters' each time I open it. Then taking some time to consider i just read before taking on another chunk.

Don't expect a book full of anti-white man rants...but a series of snapshots that show us how American culture has not shone their brightest in response to a supposed racial superiority.
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