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Learning to Be White: Money, Race and God in America Paperback – February 1, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0826412928 ISBN-10: 0826412920

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (February 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826412920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826412928
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"No reader of Thandeka's book will ever be able to think about race in quite the same way again."
- John B. Cobb, Jr., The Claremont Graduate School

"No other study so fully demonstrates the origins of white identity in misery and defeat, as well as in power and privilege. Whiteness, Thandeka shows, is a shame which divides and afflicts whites as well as the nation."
- David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness

"When it comes to race issues, Thandeka will make the phones light up."
- Dave Josephs, Afternoon Drive Producer, WPRO-AM, Providence, RI

“Thandeka adds a fresh voice to the conversation on race….The text is clearly and concisely written but packed with intellectual depth. The book should serve as an important resource to the “whiteness studies” movement and also provide insight to others who seek a framework for discussing racial identity. If, as W.E.B Dubois said, ‘the problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line,’ then Thandeka’s book offers a twenty-first-century approach for all communities of color.”
-Religious Studies Review, July 2000

"A powerful study of the creation of 'whiteness' out of the world of shame ... This is a strong book, a book which all readers - whether they understand themselves to be 'white' or not - should read."
- Sander L. Gilman, Henry R. Luce Distinguished Servi

"A challenging, thought-provoking book, full of original ideas."
- Amitai Etzioni, author of The New Golden Rule

"...a thought-provoking book about how White people learn to become racists....The author presents an intriguing study of the formation of White idenitity, defined not by power but by shame."
—Ebony, January 2001

About the Author

Thandeka, a Unitarian Universalist minister and theologian, teaches at Meadville/Lombard Theological School in Chicago. She is an Emmy Award-winning producer, journaist and talk show host.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Thandeka releases a part of the "white man's (real) burden" by allowing Euro Americans to see what they have lost in subordinating essential humanity to the American dream. Her copiously footnoted text requires the reader suspend judgement so that she can present her case. When she has finished, she has rewarded the reader with a revealing look at him or herself and the social matrix that encompasses. This is not a long book. But is an important work. She is both concise and eloquent.
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29 of 36 people found the following review helpful By watzizname VINE VOICE on December 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
There is a line from a song in Rogers & Hammerstein's "South Pacific" that goes: "To hate all the people your relatives hate, you've got to be carefully taught." Thandeka's book is about how children are taught racism. It begins with a series of anecdotes about how various children were taught racism; for example, one little boy invited his friends to his birthday party, to the evident consternation of his parents, who let him know in no uncertain terms that inviting black friends into his home was NOT acceptable behavior. He was made to feel that he had done something very wrong.

Young children, dependent on their parents for their very survival, are in no position to question the rightness of their parents' teachings, even when they may feel something is wrong. Survival requires them to conclude that the fault is theirs, and they must accept what they are taught and adjust their feelings accordingly.

As I read this book, I recognized my parents' failed attempts to teach me to be white. They started too late; I had already decided I did not want to be a racist. I grew up in a town where there were no black families, so it wasn't until I was 16 that I was subjected to an attack from my mother because I had been greatly impressed (and told her parents so) with the intelligence of a girl I had met who, unbeknownst to me, had a slight admixture of "Negro" ancestry. When the reason behind her attack finally came out, my instant response was to tell my mother that she ought to be ashamed of herself, and that I was ashamed of her for demanding that I act in a dishonorable (i. e. racist) manner, a demand that I would never consider obeying.

Read this book.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 8, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Thandeka, a Unitarian Universalist scholar, has written the essential recipe for those of us working collectively and individually on becoming more fully human.Clearly and compassionately written, Dr. Thandeka has the capacity to articulate the soul-destroying wounds many "white" people experience during formative years and frequently feel as unidentified losses(our ethnicities and working class values). Everyone, especially in this so-called era of prosperity, will take away not only a deeper historical understanding of race and class intersections,but hopefully the opportunity to redeem important human values we hold in our hearts but, sadly, are not supported in a world where market values dominate. Read it. Share the stories you thought you'd forgotten, and most importantly, share them with your children.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kiffin Ayers on May 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
The pump that I see Thankdeka priming is one of dialogue. I read this book for a paper I wrote for one of my seminary classes. It was/is a provocative read. I do feel however that she could have elaborated more, but I do not see most people reading the dozens of books that she could have produced at one sitting.
Thandeka does a wonderful job of weaving together allusions and stories to produce a work that is a quality resource. I think it is a beautiful start to facing our extremities interculturally. In my limited experience I have seen cultures that overlap and work well together, so when broad sweeping generalizations are required to convey I think it becomes time to pay a little more attention to the underdogs in the world. Maybe we can all learn a little humility and acceptance from a book like Thandeka's.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Susan B. Miller on March 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I found this book very readable and intellectually stimulating. The author puts forth a novel and plausible thesis regarding the impact of a racist society on the majority race. A great deal has been written about the effects racism has on the minority, but this writer examines its interplay with the psychology of the racist majority. She puts forth interesting and compelling ideas about the psychic danger, for white children, should they identify with the devalued minority. I found her study thought-provoking and engaging.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M C W on May 29, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have only recently started looking at White Priveledge and racism in a very new light. Most white people, including myself, have a true blind spot about our assumptions about people of color as well as about being white. This book Learning to Be White: Money, Race, and God in America, which I am still reading, opened my eyes to how we, at a very young age, start learning to recognize difference between races from our caretakers.

Thandeka writes about childhood incidents which are only too common, such as, parents making it clear that a new friend of color is not a welcome friend and not welcome in the home, a new boyfriend of color, also not approved of or welcome. As children we accept thi s, as we depend on our caretakers (parents) for love and a place of belonging.

There is much that white people take for granted that is ours simply because we are white. As Thandeka states it, we, as white people are "in the driver's seat."

Thandeka also writes about the difficult assimilation of immigrants to the United States and how these people have been taught to become racist by the white people with power. A very difficult read at times, not a "fun book," but very eye-opening. A book I recommend reading to illuminate those blind spots about race.
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