"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 showing that this was, instead, 'white rage at work. With so much attention on the flames,' she writes, '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. 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"--
Many may wonder why racism seems to still be such a problem in America, but it really is no wonder when those responsible for instating the cruelty of slavery were never made to atone for their sins. This includes not only the confederates who were pardoned by President Johnson rather than punished, this also includes the Europeans who brought slavery to the New World. It continues to this day with discriminatory and restrictive practices everywhere in the country that pushes people out of neighborhoods through policy and neglect to intervene.
Hiding behind “states’ rights,” the Supreme Court allowed states to instate black codes that basically created an indentured servant class from newly freed slaves. Meanwhile when blacks were murdered by lynching, the courts called the justice system fair.
After years of open punishment and discrimination, blacks began to move north for better opportunities – 500,000 African Americans moved north of the Mason-Dixon Line between 1917 and 1918. This upended the social structure of the south as they lost a large portion of their underpaid labor. This in turn incited laws against labor agents in order to keep blacks trapped in their labor situations. Blacks were arrested without cause and were otherwise prevented from leaving the south.
In addition, laws restricting voting targeted black Americans. In 1960, more than 98% of blacks in Mississippi and Alabama were not permitted to vote. When the NAACP attempted to repeal the restrictions aimed at African American voters, the organization was banned in southern states or were forced to list their members publicly, putting a large target on those affiliated.
Meanwhile in the north, whites began to rail against blacks in housing and education matters. Blacks were pushed into slums with increasingly poor conditions and increasingly higher rents. Schools in black neighborhoods were wholly inadequate and underfunded. When Brown vs Board of Education required integration of schools, white parents chose to place their children in private schools rather than have their children schooled with black children. And this is where the schools actually integrated. Many southern states flat-out refused to integrate and municipalities chose to close their schools altogether rather than allow integration.
Potently today, after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts passed, a contingent of those in power were able to reduce centuries of oppression to a few causes, such as the ability to sit at a lunch counter or drink at a water fountain. By diminishing the root causes of discrimination, those in power were able to change the language surrounding racial discrimination by minimizing the need for civil rights. Using the Klu Klux Klan as the enemy, powerful whites could make racism out to be an individual problem of overt racists instead of the systemic problems of the entire country. This time period also put racist language underground. Rather than blatant racism, leaders began to use dog-whistle political code language, such as law and order and states’ rights.
Anderson also dives into initiatives and failures to act of modern-day presidents that have enforced discrimination against African Americans. From civil rights enforcement and housing discrimination to lack of funding in urban areas and prison sentencing for drug crimes, legislation and policy sought to enable the racist system that has been part of the United States of America since day one.
The rest of the world sees the United States much more clearly than we can see ourselves. However, I realize my own whiteness in that statement. There are citizens in this country that see more clearly because they have been forced to see the hypocrisy and discrimination through their own experiences.
At this point, I cannot go back. I can’t unhear the code words I now know exist in the political rhetoric. I can’t unsee that the neighborhood I grew up in created a space where African Americans were not invited. I can’t unsmell the hypocrisy of our local, state, and national institutions. I can’t undo the damage that our country has caused itself by never atoning for its sins. But now that I know more of the truth, I can continue to search for even more truth and share what I have learned with others and speak out when I see inequities and racism.
It's downright depressing, despite many obvious factors, and one of the reasons I read it is because I haven't visited social science outside of health in many years. I felt it was important to brush up at this time. I've read about black movements and opposition in the past. I've read about generational divides in post-civil war, but what I appreciated here is that this was about the impact and response outside of the effect of those movements.
Because I've heard those quietly racist and complacent comments from people I know well, who clearly don't understand institutionalized racism, this book is for them. Or for talking points. Because like my favorite quote from this book explains, racism isn't just white supremacy. There's a whole spectrum whites don't do a good job examining or confronting within peers or themselves. Those little policies, words, and actions result in a lot of damage down the line, but they don't look as egregious as the KKK. so, take this as a jumping off point for those discussions. If nothing else, I read this to remind myself that these wrongs continue and are more recent and horrifying than I remember, and there is no "getting over it" until we confront white rage and work through it.
I naively welcomed Obama as our President. It took me years to realize that the instant and total resistance to his actions and viewpoints was based simply on racism. I couldn't get my hands around that concept. This book helps me to understand the attitudes held by many whites that prevented getting past the color of his skin, without regard to his qualifications or how much he was part of the white world.
Was very impressed by the author when she appeared on the Rachel Maddox show on several panels. I thought her viewpoints on race were accessible, detail-based, and relatively unemotional. This book proved her to be an ideal guide into the facts behind "black lives matter." She writes clearly, logically, chronologically, and let's the facts speak without the angry overlay that would be so easy to add. Cannot recommend this book highly enough.
The only caveat is that it's short, and covers a lot of ground. It's a good overview, but there are so many key events covered that it could easily be four times as long, and events can't be covered with good depth. It does an excellent job at showing the big picture and sequence of events, but you may find yourself wanting more.