Racism is over, many white people claim. Slavery ended long ago, the Civil Rights movement was a success, and black and white Americans live equally and in harmony today. But according to professor Carol Anderson, there is still a subtle, malicious force at work that keeps the black American down, keeps him oppressed and disadvantaged and discriminated against. This force, she calls “white rage”.
The term “white rage” is in contrast to the more well-known “black rage”–the rioting, looting, and protests that have been so frequently in recent news. Black rage may be louder and more obvious, but white rage–the hatred that white society has for black advancement and equality–is more insidious, more powerful, and more devastating.
In her meticulously sourced and emotionally gutting book, Anderson divides post-Civil War American history into five sections. Each section is marked by a victory for the black community, which is then followed by a wave of white rage, a monumental effort in social, legal, and educational spheres to suppress black Americans and steal back their hard-won rights.
From Civil War Reconstruction to the black community’s Great Migration north, from Brown to the Civil Rights movement, and culminating in the election of America’s first black president, Anderson demonstrates how each triumph for the black community was met with a monumental counter-attack. Until this rage against black advancement is a thing of the past, American cannot heal. It cannot thrive. It cannot be united.
Anderson’s book is aggressively thorough and meticulously sourced. She makes no statement unsupported, and she leaves no points undemonstrated. The ugly history of racial discrimination and systematic racism in America is laid fully bare in all its hideousness.
However, the unfortunate flipside of Anderson’s thorough and detailed writing is that it is a truly challenging read. White Rage is a dense, scholarly book, chock full of legal jargon, case references, and obscure historical allusions. Despite my degree in English literature and my affinity for books, I found it difficult making my way through White Rage.
Hard work though it was, White Rage was still worth the read. Anderson’s illuminating writing transformed my perspective on history and on current political issues. Voter suppression laws, affirmative action, and income-based education funding were revealed in a vastly different light, for better or worse.
White Rage exposed me to unfortunate truths. I am ashamed and heartbroken over the racial history of America, and more determined than ever to be an ally to the black community in whatever way I can.