21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Bad Title Good Book
, September 26, 2012
This review is from: What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was (Kindle Edition)
The title of author Joan Walsh's book What's the Matter with White People: Why We Long for a Golden Age That Never Was is a bit misleading. As much memoir and history of Irish immigration to the United States as political polemic, she uses the example of her own working class Irish family to explain why so many from this group have moved to the right, a move which appears to be against their own self-interest.
Surprisingly, given the attitude of most liberals towards the white male working class, Walsh, who is an editor at Salon.com and very much a liberal, gives an extremely empathetic and enlightening explanation of the causes of the rightward shift. She doesn't completely let the white workers off the hook - she points out, for example, that much of their opposition to Affirmative Action programs lies in their desire to be able to keep the better paying union jobs such as police and firefighters for their own kids. However, she blames most of the shift on missed opportunities by the Democratic party and misinformation from the Republicans.
As a working class woman also of Irish descent (albeit Canadian), I found myself nodding frequently at much of what she had to say. She speaks with great love and sympathy for her own Republican relatives. Her story of how she became a liberal Democrat thanks to her father, who was able to live the American Dream only due to being given to the Catholic Brothers when he was thirteen, is both sad and poignant. Her explanation of the sometimes shared, sometimes hostile history between the Irish immigrants and black people of NY is fascinating. Her story of her own journey to understand both her conservative family and her liberal friends and to live within both groups is insightful.
Too often, the white male working class is dismissed as 'racist' or 'stupid white men' by liberals while the Conservatives play into their fears (most unfounded) as they quietly dismantle the institutions, like unions, that actually try to protect the working class. Finally, in Ms Walsh's book, someone is actually speaking out for this much maligned group in an honest and sympathetic manner and, if the Democrats ever want to win them back, they better pay attention.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you?