A close reading of America’s racial chasm.
In the wake of what were often termed the Ferguson riots, Anderson (African American Studies/Emory Univ.; Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960, 2014, etc.) wrote an opinion column for the Washington Post with the headline, “Ferguson isn’t about black rage against cops. It’s white rage against progress.” Here, she extends her argument, showing how any signs of black rage might be more than justified in the face of decades of white intolerance, indifference, and obstruction. The author provides a perspective dating back to the Civil War, charging that the victory outlawing slavery failed during Reconstruction, which shifted terms without significantly improving the plight of the former slaves. “Indeed, for all the saintedness of his legacy as The Great Emancipator,” she writes, “Lincoln himself had neither the clarity, humanity, nor resolve necessary to fix what was so fundamentally broken. Nor did his successor.” Most of what Anderson traces in this compact study offers more summary than revelation, and while it does testify to the dehumanizing effects of white power and prejudice, the “white rage” of the title seems more like a rebalancing of the scales than a precise description. As she writes in the wake of Ferguson, “framing the discussion, dominating it, in fact, was an overwhelming focus on black rage…which, it seemed to me, entirely missed the point.” Yet the book builds to an emotional climax that justifies its title, as the election of the nation’s first black president brought such intensity to the nation’s fissures: “the vitriol heaped on Obama was simply unprecedented,” and the “hatred started early.” By the epilogue, Anderson’s analysis seems prescient. “Not even a full month after Dylann Roof gunned down nine African Americans,” she writes, “…Republican presidential front-runner, Donald Trump, fired up his ‘silent majority’…with a macabre promise: ‘Don’t worry, we’ll take our country back.’ ”
A book that provides necessary perspective on the racial conflagrations in the U.S.