Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White
Book: Black on White: Black Writers on What It Means to Be White , by David R. Roediger, ISBN10: 0805211144, ISBN13: 9780805211146, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, January 1999, Paperback
David R. Roediger is professor of history and chair of American studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class and Towards the Abolition of Whiteness. Roediger lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
In this thought-provoking volume, David R. Roediger has brought together some of the most important black writers throughout history to explore the question: What does it really mean to be white in America?
From folktales and slave narratives to contemporary essays, poetry, and fiction, black writers have long been among America's keenest students of white consciousness and white behavior, but until now much of this writing has been ignored. Black on White reverses this trend by presenting the work of more than fifty major figures, including James Baldwin, Derrick Bell, Ralph Ellison, W.E.B. Du Bois, bell hooks, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker to take a closer look at the many meanings of whiteness in our society.
Rich in irony, artistry, passion, and common sense, these reflections on what Langston Hughes called "the ways of white folks" illustrate how whiteness as a racial identity derives its meaning not as a biological category but as a social construct designed to uphold racial inequality. Powerful and compelling, Black on White provides a much-needed perspective that is sure to have a major impact on the study of race and race relations in America.
These two books belong to a growing body of work that examines white identity through African American writings. Historian Roediger (Towards the Abolition of Whiteness, Norton, 1994) here collects illuminating views of "whiteness" from black writers ranging from such early figures as the revolutionary David Walker to contemporaries like Toni Morrison. Some of the expected sources are here, including James Baldwin's Going To Meet the Man and Richard Wright's Black Boy, but among several delightful surprises are George S. Schuyler's essay "Our White Folks" and Alice Walker's "The Dummy in the Window: Joel Chandler Harris and the Invention of Uncle Remus." Although the anthology includes a range of perspectives, Roediger has essentially excluded "the more reflexively antiwhite tradition represented (at times) by the nation of Islam, or by Leonard Jeffries's recent writing on whites." This results in some notable omissions, including Malcom X. Still, this is a valubable collection that should go a long way in helping us to understand America's troubled racial relations. Recommended for all collections. Sartwell (philosophy, Pennsylvania State Univ.) analyzes the perception of whiteness in the slave narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs, the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Malcolm X, and contemporary rap music. He contends that whites, in seeking to establish their identity as the norm, ultimately render themselves invisible. Furthermore, white identity is typically constructed in comparison with nonwhite identities, often portraying the latter as inferior, he notes. Through the writings of African Americans, Sartwell believes whiteness can be viewed in a more objective manner. At the same time that he seeks to elucidate the texts, he grapples with his own whiteness. In the process, he has presented an engaging though disturbing investigation of the complex politics of identity. Recommended for academic libraries.Louis J. Parascandola, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn Campus, NY
Cheap Books: BUY NOW