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Just like in the last book I reviewed—“The Color of Compromise: The American Church’s Complicity in Racism,” I can’t say that these are my favorite parts because the whole premise of the book is an attempt at reaching the bottom of racism and airing its filth. None of this is pretty, relaxing, or jovial. It’s painful like a root canal with no anesthesia—or maybe replacing a femur with no anesthesia is closer to the level of agony. Necessary agony. Rage. Necessary rage ensues. This is a book that I wanted to throw and to burn up, but I knew that I had to push through in order to frame what and how I see the world, its people, and my own Black body and mind. It is also the final book I’m going to read on this topic for right now. I’m taking a book break and reading some poetry next because my heart can’t take much more.
With all this being said, here are the most pivotal parts of the book.
First, the definition of white rage. I’m not able to rephrase it because I wouldn’t do it justice and it needs all the recognition:
“What was really at work here was white rage . With so much attention focused on the flames , everyone had ignored the logs , the kindling . In some ways , it is easy to see why . White rage is not about visible violence , but rather it works its way through the courts , the legislatures , and a range of government bureaucracies . It wreaks havoc subtly , almost imperceptibly . Too imperceptibly , certainly , for a nation consistently drawn to the spectacular — to what it can see . It’s not the Klan . White rage doesn’t have to wear sheets , burn crosses , or take to the streets . Working the halls of power , it can achieve its ends far more effectively , far more destructively… The trigger for white rage , inevitably , is black advancement . It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem ; rather , it is blackness with ambition , with drive , with purpose , with aspirations , and with demands for full and equal citizenship. The truth is , white rage has undermined democracy , warped the Constitution , weakened the nation’s ability to compete economically , squandered billions of dollars on baseless incarceration , rendered an entire region sick , poor , and woefully undereducated , and left cities nothing less than decimated . 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 . Because they were unwilling to take no for an answer.”
I’m definitely in the stage of my understanding of Blackness and whiteness where I’m full of anger and despair. At systems and not necessarily at people. I see white folks who are filled with whiteness and spew whiteness as victims in their own way also. They have no idea how hurtful they can be and are. They don’t know how powerful they can become as tools to fight systems which maim and subjugate and murder. It’s unfortunate. Truly unfortunate.
Second pivotal part. The extent to which white rage and whiteness will go in order to protect its own. This book gives the why, the where, the how, and the fortitude by which it maintains white rage’s innocence of any wrongdoing so that no one can refute the author’s argument. I can’t remember who said it, but what we are seeing now with the weeping and gnashing of teeth by whiteness is basically an animal dying a slow and painful death. It’s being held accountable for its actions and it’s literally crawling and grabbing at whatever it can to stay afloat. Whiteness needs to die so that we all can live.
Third pivotal part. The author warns that nothing will change if nothing changes. We will still be having the same kerfuffles and all-out civil wars in the court systems and in every facet of our American existence unless the roots are combed out and a new path created. Unfortunately, everyone must be on the same page and fighting in the same direction in order for this to work.
Fourth pivotal part. For me, I left America because I needed to heal and take a break from whiteness in America. So, I just moved to another country that is hyper-overt in their racism. I became tearful as I read the stories of Black folks who refused to give up on a country that has consistently betrayed us, given us every reason to light it on fire and start over and fought for rights and access to everything that was promised to “all” (read: white men). Black folks have been in the courthouses and schoolhouses and regular houses and on every stage and even yelling from the crowds for equity since we got here! I’m grateful for every person who did their part and am challenged to continue doing mine for the good of those who will come after. I can only imagine what the USA would be like if Black folks just accepted the deplorably inhumane treatment we were/are subjugated to by white folks—even the nice white folks.
Why you need to read this book
—Read so that you can see patterns of oppression and how they are justified in order to maintain precedence by powers in charge today.
—Gather wording and understanding on how to defend the need to fight for the oppressed and marginalized.
—See the tenacity of Black folks who refuse to give up and will fight for all of us.
Description from Uncle Bobbie’s Books:
As Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August 2014, and media commentators across the ideological spectrum referred to the angry response of African Americans as “black rage,” historian Carol Anderson wrote a remarkable op-ed in The Washington Post suggesting that this was, instead, white rage at work. With so much attention on the flames, she argued, everyone had ignored the kindling.
Since 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, every time African Americans have made advances towards full participation in our democracy, white reaction has fueled a deliberate and relentless rollback of their gains. The end of the Civil War and Reconstruction was greeted with the Black Codes and Jim Crow; the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was met with the shutting down of public schools throughout the South while taxpayer dollars financed segregated white private schools; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 triggered a coded but powerful response, the so-called Southern Strategy and the War on Drugs that disenfranchised millions of African Americans while propelling presidents Nixon and Reagan into the White House, and then the election of America’s first black President, led to the expression of white rage that has been as relentless as it has been brutal.
Carefully linking these and other historical flashpoints when social progress for African Americans was countered by deliberate and cleverly crafted opposition, Anderson pulls back the veil that has long covered actions made in the name of protecting democracy, fiscal responsibility, or protection against fraud, rendering visible the long lineage of white rage. Compelling and dramatic in the unimpeachable history it relates, White Rage will add an important new dimension to the national conversation about race in America.
Author Bio from Uncle Bobbie’s Books:
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.
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