Monday, April 3, 2017
White Rage: The UnspokenTruth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
This is a completely enraging book. Anderson basically fits her material into five chapters, beginning with the aftermath of the Civil War through President Obama’s presidency. She is pointing out the ways that America has been granting rights to all its citizens with one hand while taking away the rights of some with the other. She has it all copiously documented, which is useful because she tells us some frankly unbelievable things: did you know 1) in the early part of the 20th Century black folk were arrested and prevented from leaving the South when they faced discrimination in work and housing because they constituted the “workforce”; and 2) in the 1980s two L.A. gangs, the Blood and the Crips, were sold drugs and weaponry by anti-Sandinista forces funded by our own C.I.A., beginning the massive drug war the country has been struggling with since.
These are just two examples in a book entirely filled with examples of the way rights for blacks have been curtailed in the United States, since its founding. And it continues to this day, with new abridgments to rights granted under the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby vs. Holder that states with the longest histories of voting discrimination no longer need to have the federal government approve voting changes made prior to elections. Since then, seventeen states had new voting restrictions in place for the first time for the 2016 presidential elections, including strict requirements for government-issued I.D.s, cutbacks on early voting, and new difficulties in registering to vote or being removed from the voting rolls without notification.
Besides all that, the disparity in funding for public schools means that districts with primarily black populations have less, sometimes far less, funding than schools in districts with primarily white populations, all perfectly "legal" when school districts are funded by taxes. Discriminate on lower education, higher education, wages, and housing and yes, black districts will have fewer taxes, and the cycle is perpetuated. I am just understanding the pervasiveness of “racism with plausible deniability.” Anderson’s persistent and careful documentation of the continual challenges the states put in the way of implementing the Supreme Court decision Brown vs the Board of Education show us the way laws can be undermined by new oral argument, written decisions, and execution.
When growing up I was not always aware of the sometimes subtle ways—and even sometimes big, national, loud judicial and congressional decisions—that constrained African Americans, preventing them from realizing their full potential, but I knew enough to be shocked when President Obama was elected. Even without the consciousness I should have had, I knew enough about America’s racism to find it extremely unlikely that people would put aside their prejudices long enough to elect a bi-racial man, even if he did graduate from Harvard Law School. I am happy to be proved wrong on those two elections, but I am not so happy as I continue to learn the ways one’s rights can be infringed regardless of how we vote and the ways the attacks on rights just never ends.
This is an important, even necessary book. For those without the background in the ways black lives have struggled, it is eye-opening. For those who already know the background, it has lots of references altogether in one place, and an extensive bibliography. This is another one of those recent books that seems like it should have been written fifty years ago. It probably was, with a different title. This has been going on an awfully long time, at least 350 years, though a book written earlier wouldn’t have had all the examples of how abrogation of the rights of African Americans is happening right now. This may go on until the end of time, so there is still a undeniable need for you to learn about it and work to stop it.
You can buy this book here: Tweet