A reprint of the author’s account of her work as a white lesbian “thinking race, feeling race, acting against racism” in the American South.
First published in 1994, this memoir tells the highly topical story of how Segrest (Emeritus, Gender and Women’s Studies/Connecticut Coll.; Born to Belonging: Writings on Spirit and Justice, 2002, etc.) developed intersectional feminist consciousness and struggled against far-right extremism in North Carolina. As a member of a conservative Alabama family, the author began questioning white privilege when she witnessed the intense struggles black students faced during forced integration in the early 1960s. A decade later, she came face to face with her own minority status when she realized she was gay. During the 1970s, Segrest gravitated to feminism but quickly saw that its ideologies were as classist as they were racist and heterosexist. The author then evolved a socialist consciousness that regarded misogyny, homophobia, and racism as byproducts of capitalism, and she eventually realized that liberation movements “separate people as much as bring them together.” This understanding became the cornerstone of her work at the intersection of race, class, and gender. Her “race traitor” activism during the 1980s and ’90s led her to forge fraught but necessary alliances with black activists in North Carolina while speaking out against the Ku Klux Klan for its acts of white supremacist violence. Segrest also worked for justice in hate crimes against members of the gay community, but the extreme homophobia she encountered in the more conservative parts of North Carolina sometimes meant having to keep her sexual orientation hidden. She presciently concludes that unless Americans understand and take action against the legacy of “racism…homophobia…hatred of Jews and women [and] greed,” it will “sicken us all.” Twenty-five years later, in the shadow of increasing worldwide white nationalism and hyperpredatory capitalism, Segrest’s reflections are exceptionally chilling, fresh, and urgent.
A passionate, lucid, and necessary memoir, then and now.