White Rage

by Carol Anderson

Paperback, 2017




Bloomsbury Adult (2017), Edition: Reprint, 304 pages


"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"--… (more)


(137 ratings; 4.3)

User reviews

LibraryThing member johnjmeyer
Powerful and brief is good in my book. I have done lots of reading in the area of white supremacist ideology and US history with respect to government and legal policies respecting African Americans, and this is a punchy and well written short volume that traces the consistent betrayal of our
Show More
stated ideals when it comes down to a showdown with ensuring continued white dominance. And, I would disagree with the reviewer who said there wasn't much new here. There were a couple of new revelations to me , including President Andrew Johnson's championing of free 160 acre giveaways to poor whites while opposing dividing the liberated plantations to the formerly enslaved who had worked it -- to cite just one example. A highly recommended read/listen.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Carlie
This book was life-changing for me. There is so much about American history that was not taught to me in school, and I feel completely betrayed by the educational system of the country. It deeply angers me that the true history of this country has been whitewashed and continues to be. Further, the
Show More
United States tells other countries that they are committing violations of human rights while we have our own policies of ethnic cleansing at home.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member larryerick
Many decades ago, I had a high school English teacher that gave my class a reading list to use through the school year. One particular category of books, I will always remember, was "Man's Inhumanity to Man". White America has unquestionably always had a burr under its saddle, to put it mildly, for
Show More
its fellow mankind of a darker complexion. It's never been quite enough to just disrespect in silence. If I could offer just one book for someone to read about the black experience in America, this would certainly be in strong contention. Another single book would be Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. However, if Alexander's book is the skillfully, painstakingly laid out prosecutorial court case of America's inhumanity to man, then this author's book is the fiery, vivid closing summation, drawing it all together for maximum impact. Hopefully readers will find the route to justice to this case and seek the source to man's humanity.
Show Less
LibraryThing member abycats
Superb. Detailed (but relatively brief) chronology of the many acts, legislation, and cruelties used, after the Civil War, to keep blacks in their place despite the abolition of slavery. Much of this information was not known to me and I was appalled to realize how many of my casual beliefs are
Show More
based on incorrect data. A real wake-up call. I'd seen the tip of the iceberg before but, growing up near the Mason-Dixon Line and in a fairly lily-white world, I simply didn't have the background provided here.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member rivkat
Really good concept and framing, but execution that will not be informative to anyone who’s read a reasonable amount on American history and race. Advances in racial equality, specifically for African-Americans, lead to backlashes attempting to recreate and reinforce racial hierarchy; that’s
Show More
Reconstruction, that’s the Great Migration, that’s the Nixonian/Reaganite response to civil rights—each time making heavier use of the prison-industrial complex as an alternative—and that’s the alt-Right/Tea Party.
Show Less
LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
An enlightening and enraging read. I have much more to say but am still forming my thoughts.
LibraryThing member cdogzilla
Harrowing and meticulously argued. Should be required reading in every high school.
LibraryThing member neddludd
This could have been better. What we have is a polemic in which the author paints a picture of systemic racism in the U.S. There's not much cultural exploration--why whites have such visceral hatred and fear of blacks. What's presented instead are bizarre and twisted Supreme Court decisions
Show More
revealing that from the very pinnacle of American constitutional government, Blacks get screwed. Interspersed are comments showing how absurd and evil the Confederacy (past and present) remains. Voter suppression is anti-Democratic but it's today's version of the Poll Tax and other bars to voting. Useful but not definitive. However, remember that Tom Paine also wrote a polemic...
Show Less
LibraryThing member bness2
Powerful, brief history of Racism and its roots. It is so clear that racism remains alive and well in the US and we need to change that.
LibraryThing member villemezbrown
A devastating history of oppression and suppression made all the worse when one realizes how many of the outrages still exist today in only slightly modified forms. Overwhelming at times, but incredibly educational and enlightening.
LibraryThing member arosoff
This is an excellent and well written survey of key periods in black advancement and how, each time, whites have used the system to push back and ensure that black Americans would not get the rights due to them.

The only caveat is that it's short, and covers a lot of ground. It's a good overview,
Show More
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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member samnreader
A concise, though thorough, outline of the birth of white rage. From outright slave ownership to the quiet complacency and threat that whites perceive because of black survival, success, thriving, and, ultimately, excellence. The structure of this book is compelling and convincing, and focuses the
Show More
root of racism right where it should: white rage, fragility, and inability to make substantial reconciliation with our past and present.

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.
Show Less
LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
Interesting look at how many advancements in Civil Rights were soon after rolled-back in sneaky ways.
LibraryThing member CovenantPresMadison
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
Show More
important new dimension to the national conversation about race in America.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Anniik
This should be required reading. It is not an easy read, but even having a degree in political science, I learned things that I didn’t know (probably because of the ethnocentrism of our education system). Excellent book.
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
A painful read, comprised of what felt like an endless litany of shameful behavior based on white rage. Rage at people who dared to question, to aspire, to sit at the front of the bus! So much wasted energy, money, and lives, all to keep people in their place. We can do better. I think we can.
LibraryThing member Griffin_Reads
This is an intense read, delving into just the surface level of racism in American society and how it came to be where it is at now. It includes many events that get left out of history classes, but is crucial to understanding our society today. The book leaves a lot to think on, as well as ways in
Show More
which we can move forward from the continuing prevalence of racism. It is one of those books that I will have to reread in a few months to continue to grow and learn new things from.
Show Less


Globe and Mail Top 100 Book (Nonfiction — 2016)
Boston Globe Best Book (Nonfiction — 2016)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

8.17 inches


1632864134 / 9781632864130
Page: 0.4532 seconds