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White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide Paperback – September 5, 2017
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"[A] slim but persuasive volume . . . A sobering primer on the myriad ways African American resilience and triumph over enslavement, Jim Crow and intolerance have been relentlessly defied by the very institutions entrusted to uphold our democracy." - Washington Post
"[White Rage] is an extraordinarily timely and urgent call to confront the legacy of structural racism bequeathed by white anger and resentment, and to show its continuing threat to the promise of American democracy." - Editor's Choice, New York Times Book Review
"An unflinching look at America's long history of structural and institutionalized racism, White Rage is a timely and necessary examination of white anger and aggression towards black America . . . A compelling look at American history, White Rage has never seemed more relevant than it does today." - Bustle, “17 Books On Race Every White Person Needs To Read”
"There's a book called White Rage by Carol Anderson about a history that most Americans don't know: the history of oppression that African Americans have faced from the Civil War to the present day. If every American read it, maybe we could really begin to have a conversation about race in America." - Senator Al Franken, in answer to the question, "What's the one book you wish all Americans would read right now?", New York Times Book Review
"[A] powerful survey of American history as seen in the violent white reactions to black progress, from Reconstruction to the great migration to the current political landscape." - Boston Globe
"Anderson has shown, with her well-sourced (she has several hundred detailed footnotes) and readable book, why the fights over race and access to the perquisites of American citizenship grind on . . . White Rage lends perspective and insight for those of us who are willing to confront, study and learn from the present situation in this country." - St. Louis Dispatch
"In every episode of White Rage Anderson amplifies and elongates this initial claim [white America’s seething resistance to African Americans’ sociopolitical advancements] into a striking argument about the nation’s failure to recognize African Americans as full members the citizenry. Though stretching a stand-alone essay into an extended study doesn’t work very often, White Rage operates efficiently and elegantly, offering readers new intelligence about American experience. Following Anderson, one gains insight by accrual." - Lit Hub
"It's shocking, beautifully written, and, with white supremacy knocking on the White House door, more important than ever. Some books are great, some books are essential. White Rage is the latter." - Ed Yong, The Millions
"Truly, I couldn't put it down. [White Rage] draws a razor-sharp line from the Civil War to Trayvon Martin with all the stops in between. If you want context for . . . the life we're living in this country right this minute, I urge you to pick up a copy. [Its] 160 pages have the power to change your life." - Ann Patchett, Parnassus Musing
"Powerful . . . Like a meticulous prosecutor assembling her case, Anderson lays out a profoundly upsetting vision of an America driven to waves of reactionary white anger whenever it’s confronted with black achievement." - Bookforum
"Bracing . . . It might all seem very conspiratorial and cloak-and-dagger, were it not also true. Reading through all the frightfully inventive ways in which America makes racial inequality a matter of law (and order) has a dizzying effect: like watching a quick-cut montage of social injustice spanning nearly half a millennium." - The Globe and Mail
"[F]or readers who want to understand the sense of grievance and pain that many African Americans feel today, White Rage offers a clearly written and well-thought-out overview of an aspect of U.S. history with which the country is still struggling to come to terms." - Foreign Affairs
"Prescient . . . provides necessary perspective on the racial conflagrations in the U.S." - Kirkus Reviews
"Anderson’s mosaic of white outrage deserves contemplation by anyone interested in understanding U.S. race relations, past and present." - Library Journal
"[An] engaging, thought-provoking work . . . Anderson’s clear, ardent prose detailing the undermining of America’s stated ideals and democratic norms is required reading for anyone interested in the state of American social discourse." - Booklist
"Few historians write with the grace, clarity, and intellectual verve Carol Anderson summons in this book. We are tethered to history, and with White Rage, Anderson adeptly highlights both that past and the tenacious grip race holds on the present. There is a handful of writers whose work I consider indispensable. Professor Anderson is high up on that list." - William Jelani Cobb, author of THE SUBSTANCE OF HOPE
"White Rage is a harrowing account of our national history during the century and a half since the Civil War--even more troubling for what it exposes about our present, our deep and abiding racial divide. This is necessary reading for anyone interested in understanding--and perfecting--our union." - Natasha Trethewey, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for NATIVE GUARD and Two-term Poet Laureate of the United States
"To overcome our racial history, Americans must first learn our racial history--as it truly and painfully happened. This powerful book is the place to start." - David Von Drehle, author of RISE TO GREATNESS: ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND AMERICA'S MOST PERILOUS YEAR
About the Author
Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor and Chair 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 andEyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights: 1944-1955. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Top customer reviews
The book indicts both northern and southern states, which complicates the grade-school stereotype of a racist white South and an innocent, non-racist white North. It shows how dedicated White northern communities were/are to segregating housing and education. As a Northern-identified white person I found that sobering - to think about how the suburban towns and schools I grew up with were also the result of racist agendas and values.
It also reveals a lot about complex systems of local/state-level policy and governance work, which could be valuable for activists who want to use those systems to expand and protect human rights.
I accept her central argument that Black economic and political advances since the Civil War have prompted systematic politically motivated backlash. I would, however, characterize this as a tactic that while usually racially motivated also has an economic and class division dimension that is under developed in this short polemic. Edward Baptist’s “The Half has Never Been Told” is better on the history and Ta-Nishi Coates on the contemporary nexus of racism and economic discrimination.
Professor Anderson’s best chapters are on the Great Migration and resistance to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown decision repudiating the legal doctrine of separate but equal segregation. “Derailing the Great Migration” draws on Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns” and Kevin Boyle’s “Ark of Justice” to portray first the failed Southern effort from World War I thru the 1920s to halt Southern African Americans fleeing savage repression and economic destitution. Using Detroit and Chicago as examples she pivots to enforced housing segregation. This is a persistent problem, my Bethesda, Maryland neighborhood was informally red-lined into the 1990s. “Burning Brown to the Ground” examines the successful 1950s-60s Southern Massive Resistance campaign to thwart the school integration. I attended a totally segregated Fairfax County, Virginia public elementary school from 1957-62. Subsequent chapters outline the Nixon-Reagan era backlash against the Lyndon Johnson era Great Society programs and the contemporary concerted Republican effort to suppress voting in response to President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 elections.
Professor Anderson’s treatment of the Nineteenth Century is weaker. Her Lincoln portrait sets up a strawman racist whose growth seems to stop in early 1862. She argues that Lincoln rejected extending the franchise to Black voters which is wrong. By the end of the Civil War Lincoln had publicly endorsed limited franchise for Black veterans and a literacy test for non-veterans. This was imperfect but radical for 1865 and may have triggered Lincoln’s murder. Booth heard Lincoln lay out this proposal, told a compatriot it meant Black equality and vowed to “put him over.” We can’t know what Lincoln would have done in the face of persistent resistance to emancipation and Reconstruction but I believe it would have resembled the Civil Rights measures the Republican Congress passed. Conversely, Anderson’s discussion of Andrew Johnson—much of it based on a short biography Annette Gordon-Reed wrote a few years back—is very good.
The blame Anderson ascribes to the Supreme Court for Reconstruction’s failure is simplistic. It does not distinguish between the cautious and unimaginative Waite Court (1874-88) and the hostile Fuller Court (1888-1910) which repudiated every opinion the Waite Court issued that could—with vigorous DOJ prosecution—have protected at least federal voting rights It lets the Court serve as a scapegoat for increasing Northern voter resistance to vigorous Army and DOJ suppression of terrorism. She never mentions the financial crash of 1873 and ensuing loss of the House which hamstrung Grant. Anderson also neglected the 1890 failure of a Republican Senate majority to pass voting rights enforcement legislation the House crafted to build on Waite Court Fifteenth Amendment opinions. The Senate leadership traded election safeguards to secure tariff reform. That is the point the Republican Party abandoned Black Americans.
Examining Ferguson Professor Anderson missed an opportunity to deliver a strong message on the impact of raising revenue to fund police thru fines, bench warrants and jailing people for non payment—abuses present in Ferguson. They are far too common in poor and predominantly minority communities. They undercut employment opportunities and foster a climate of hopeless frustration. Similarly the book suffered from not discussing the scandal that asset forfeiture has become, an issue that is getting serious attention from Attorney General Lynch and the DOJ. I found some of the sourcing dubious, especially for asserting that the Reagan Administration knowingly sought and used crack cocaine money to fund the Contras. That rests on discredited conspiracy theories. It hurts an otherwise strong argument made on the disproportionate sentences legislated for cocaine and crack cocaine offenses and the decision to treat drug addition in purely criminal terms.
There is no bibliography but interested readers should consult the extensive footnotes which are a roadmap for those interested in exploring topics in greater depth.
“…white rage has undermined democracy, warped the Constitution, weakened the nation’s ability to compete economically, squandered billions of dollars on baseless incarcerations, rendered an entire region sick, poor and woefully undereducated, and left cities nothing less than devastated. All this havoc has been wreaked simply because African Americans wanted to work, get an education, live in decent communities, raise their families and vote.”
She’s a strong writer and clearly an excellent researcher. Everyone should read this book, especially those who think we live in a post-racial country. We have so much work to do to overcome the past, and we are still repeating the horrific mistakes.