Confronted with losing the distinction between free and slave, rebel Southerners created a common whiteness to solve their post-Civil War-era problems, argues Hale (history, Univ. of Virginia). They built a nationalism of denial, a world of white and black, of power and fear. In literature, the marketplace, and public spectacle, they crafted a collectivity based on segregation as a culture, making whiteness a racial identity and the American norm even while asserting that it was natural and not the product of human choice. And as Hale shows in this absorbing cultural history of racial construction, it wasn't just white Southerners who embraced the individual and collective identity of superiority but Northerners as well. Her thesis on the evolution of racial identity in this country is not entirely new but is greatly enhanced by her fine literary and cultural detail. This work complements Ian Haney-Lopez's White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race (LJ 12/95) and David Theo Goldberg's Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning (Blackwell, 1993) and his more recent Racial Subjects: Writing on Race in America (Routledge, 1997). Recommended for collections on the South and U.S. culture, history, or society.AThomas Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
First-timer Hale's impressive examination of the Jim Crow Southan erudite intellectual survey of the sweeping social, historical, and economic trends that shaped white racial identity in opposition to blacknessis obscured by deadly academic jargon. The central myth Hale debunks is that whiteness is an organic, rather than manufactured, racial identitythat it is, somehow, the American norm. She identifies several large cultural forces that influenced white racial identity. The replacement of local merchandise with a national mass market, for example, gave rise to advertising (much of it created in the North) that manipulated southerners' nostalgic remembrance of loyal, subservient slaves by using African-American icons like Aunt Jemima to sell goods to a nationwide audiencepresumed to be entirely white. Advances in printing technology made it easier to distribute demeaning images of African-Americans, reinforcing negative stereotypes. Just as black racial identity was largely defined in relation to whiteness after Reconstruction, Hale asserts, whiteness was defined by blackness. Analyzing how whites of different economic and educational backgrounds shared a unified sense of supremacy, she fleshes out Ralph Ellison's famous declaration: ``Southern whites cannot walk, talk, sing, conceive of laws or justice, think of sex, love, the family or freedom without responding to the presence of Negroes.'' But in place of Ellison's simple eloquence, Hale raises an impenetrable thicket of theoretical jargon (terms like transhistorical, isomorphic, and dialectics rain like candy from a Mardi Gras float). She glosses the Civil War's outcome thus: ``Union victory delegitimated that nascent nationalist collectivity, the Confederacy.'' Furthermore, her contention that ``this corresponding depth of racial obsession occurred only with passing'' for African-Americans spectacularly understates the totality with which whites controlled black life during Jim Crow's dark reign. One senses in Hale's (American History/Univ. Of Virginia) cogent, encyclopedic scholarship the debut of an important new intellectual voiceall the more reason to regret the cloaking of provocative thinking in the fusty duds of academic prose. (8 pages b&w photos) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Editorial Reviews
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