Carol Anderson, Ph.D tells a lot of hard truths in White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. I believe her one hundred percent, partly because a solid half of this book is scholarly footnotes. And partly because of all the other social justice reading I’ve done over the last few years. Also Anderson has significant academic credibility.
If any of that scares you about the readability of this book, don’t let it. The only reason it took me three solid weeks to read is because the injustices made me so angry. I kept having to put the book down and take breaks. Of course, people of color never get to take breaks from all the unjust decisions affecting them every day.
Anderson covers a lot of ground in White Rage. She starts right after the Civil War and continues up to today. Her primary method of organization is chronological, which helps make the progression of decisions and events more clear.
She walks her readers through Reconstruction, The Great Migration (from South to North), Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights Movement, the Voting Rights Act(s), and current day, especially as it relates to President Barack Obama. It’s an excellent and comprehensive work.
Anderson wastes no words in this book. She explains the facts, never getting sidetracked by emotion or opinion. With a topic like institutionalized racism, I think that’s a necessity. Having both historical focus and scholarly analysis gives this book more validity than something without those elements.
And, at the same time, I found Anderson’s writing style to be quite readable. As I said, the content was upsetting. But despite that, I never felt like this book was a slog to read. She’s skilled at explaining complex events in an understandable way. Perhaps that’s due to her career as a college professor and public speaker. And yet, her writing enlightens and explains rather than lecturing.
If I was just starting my venture into educating myself about social justice, this would be a good overview of critical topics. It pairs perfectly with Richard Rothstein’s deep dive into housing-related racial injustice in The Color of Law. I’d also read it in conjunction with the March Trilogy by John Lewis, or the groundbreaking novel Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.
And yet, White Rage also stands alone. It is a specific and strong indictment of the beliefs and behavior of white men over the course of 150 years. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in these topics.