White Rage by Carol Anderson

 White Rage: the unspoken truth of our racial divide by Carol Andersonwhiterage

I like a book that takes conventional wisdom– and turns it on its head. To give you a whole new way of looking at things. White Rage by Carol Anderson is a book that does just that.

The author, an American historian, takes as a starting point the recent events of Ferguson, Missouri, in which an  unarmed black teenager was shot to death by police. Widespread looting and rioting by blacks followed, leading many commentators at the time to talk about “black rage.”

But Anderson flips that notion around, saying the real issue is, in fact, “white rage.” It is whites who will not accept full and equal citizenship of blacks and who are thus the main cause of race problems in America.

White Rage looks at black experience from the end of the Civil War (1861-65) to the present. Legislatures and courthouses were used time and time again to limit the rights of blacks.  Plenty of physical violence was also directed against them.

Much of this information I have heard before (though some of it forgotten). To have it all presented in one place makes for very shocking and sickening reading. A couple of things really jumped out at me.  For instance, the southern states did everything they could (poll taxes, literacy tests, among other things) to stop blacks from voting. Thus in the 1940s, of the millions of adult blacks in the deep South, only 5% were actually registered to vote. Not exactly democracy at its finest–or even democracy at all.

Or how about this. After the Civil War the federal government passed the 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery), which all states were required to ratify. The last state to do so, Mississippi, finally got around to it in 2013 (yes, that’s 2013). Unbelievable.

I think the author makes a pretty solid case for re- framing the debate. A very thought-provoking book.

Penny D.