CROSSINGS by Walt Harrington


A White Man's Journey into Black America
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 Magisterial investigation of black America by a white reporter for The Washington Post; portions have appeared in Life magazine and the Washington Post Sunday Magazine. The seed for this book was planted when Harrington, who's married to a black woman and has two mixed-race children, overheard a racist joke while sitting in his dentist's chair. Instantly, ``I was touched and humbled, converted...I knew in my heart that I didn't know anything about race.'' To educate himself, he undertook a 25,000-mile voyage around the country, talking and listening to hundreds of blacks, from sharecroppers and cops to college professors and writers. Some of the visits were personal: Harrington dropped by his wife's family farm, where he heard his father-in-law's memories of segregation; later, he visited two black acquaintances from his college days, both former radicals. Mostly, though, Harrington met strangers. A few were celebrities: Ice-T, who urged young blacks to work within the system; a diffident Spike Lee; the ``seriously giddy'' Dori Sanders, author of Clover; Ishmael Reed; James McPherson, who saluted ``decents'' of all races. The unknowns ranged from a 96-year-old in Arkansas who remembered lynchings to gang members on the West Coast to a saintly volunteer at a children's hospital in Detroit. Occasionally, the talk shocked Harrison: Several blacks complained about black indolence and crime; young black men found black women ``too manly.'' Blacks, the author notes, speak a different language than whites, communicating through rhythm as well as content. At journey's end, Harrison found himself ``less frightened'' of blacks, admiring their humor, skepticism, and resourcefulness. He contends that the ``white liberal piety'' of black-white sameness is a lie; that racial distrust runs deep; and that it's up to whites to solve the problem. Too long by far, but an engrossing, multilayered portrait--as well as a touching personal odyssey. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Jan. 13th, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-016558-8
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1992


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