As the dialogue about racial relations in the United States escalates, there still remains much, if not more, uncertainty about the roles of whites wishing to help advance social equality and justice for blacks and other minorities. This book should help.
Through their actions, proponents of change sometimes sustain the very racism they seek to eradicate, while others simply play it safely and politically correctly, taking a sideline seat. In his latest book, hip-hop scholar Hess (English/Rider Univ.; The Nostalgia Echo, 2011, etc.) takes readers on a personal journey of his youth in the racially toxic backwoods of rural white Kentucky. He eventually escaped to the diversity of university life in Louisville, later joining the faculty at New Jersey’s Rider University. Along the way, the author inevitably became a “white ally” to the black struggle, using his deep love of hip-hop, which helped shape his worldview, as a tool to educate largely privileged white students about the realities of black life in the U.S. In his life mission as an ally, Hess continues to question his unique position as a white professor and the responsibilities, taboos, aspirations, and limitations of spreading awareness. “My former students are working as everything from TV cameramen to stand-up comics to cops,” he writes. “We need educated citizens in all those roles. Racism is so ingrained in American culture that it touches every aspect of our lives, so what should a white person do?” The author tackles a variety of significant issues: the potential dangers of watering down the struggle through the dominant culture’s slow appropriation of this once purely black musical form, the myth of “reverse racism,” corporate America’s role as perpetuator of racial problems, and misogynistic tendencies in hip-hop music. Ultimately, Hess emphasizes the importance of education as the principal approach to evoking real change.
Bouncing between personal narrative and critical analysis, the author weaves an entertaining and richly informative instruction manual for both seasoned and budding allies.