It’s not clear what Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America is trying to accomplish. While the author rightly highlights the many privileges of white people in America, his strident tone will surely repel those who would most need to grasp the damage of their racist views, and discourage those who are working towards a more egalitarian society. The most effective part of the book, for me, were the personal stories of discrimination taken straight from the author’s family, full of law-abiding, educated, successful individuals that regularly encounter naked racism as well as more covert versions. He also clearly explains how black immigrants have a leg up on black Americans. But the vitriol…
Tag Archives: racism
Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families is a brave book for daring to tackle the topic of color bias within families. Sadly, the book does not rise above a series of anecdotes and casual chats, which certainly give interesting insights on how family members treat those with different skin tones in a society that is hyper-conscious of color — but it’s very difficult to see any kind of strong pattern without a more detailed analysis.
The author quotes Far From The Tree multiple times, a book that focused on raising children very different from oneself. I would suggest reading Far From The Tree instead of this one.
The author of They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement is a journalist who reported on police killings of black men, the inquiries that followed, and the protests they created. The stories come together in a rather disjointed manner, one chapter per location, and apparently one narrative per location, too, but it does not mean that the book is not interesting. In particular, the author shows how the sizes of the protests do not relate to the magnitude of the injustice, but rather to the social media fervor that each incident generated, and how long-time police brutality and insensitivity brought about a situation where residents no longer trust those that are supposed to protect them. Makes you wonder about the wisdom of entrusting local policing to individual communities.
Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison is the story of a man who went from solitary confinement to a career as a public speaker. He speaks candidly about his difficult childhood, with an abusive mother (but, fortunately, a supportive and caring, if absent father) and of his career as a drug dealer. In prison, over almost two decades, he painfully learned to conquer his anger and left to start a completely new life, speaking up about prison conditions. The story shows how difficult it is to turn one’s life around, especially from the depths of the prison system.
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide recounts the myriad ways white Americans have blocked improvements in the lives of African Americans, Lincoln, the hallowed emancipator, initially thought it best that African Americans simply leave the country (for Panama). The Supreme Court for decades approved poll taxes that were specifically designed to exclude African-American voters, and seem utterly opposite to the Fifteenth Amendment. When African-Americans moved North and West as part of the Great Migration, white Southerners dreamed up all kinds of strategies to prevent their getting on trains to get there. After the Brown v. Board of Education case, many Southern towns set up private schools with public money that excluded black students. The author’s rightful indignation spills over from time to time, weakening her argument. For instance, while African-Americans’ access to higher education needs improvement, the numbers simply do not add up to explain why the proportion of scientists living in the US is decreasing! Too bad: the book is a useful reminder that although racist scheming may have gone underground, it’s still very active.
It’s a good thing that I knew as I read The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir that the author lived to write his memoir, because bullets fly, overdoses happen, and many young men, dealers and addicts both, die over the course of the story, many ending their days bleeding in the arms of the author. The level of violence in East Baltimore is famous, by now, but this story vividly illustrates why young men don’t think they will make it to 20, which may explain some of the risks they take. The author never tries to prescribe solutions for the children who grow up in an environment where drug dealers are the ones with money and power, even if they don’t last long — but the problems are terrifying.
Ghetto: The Invention of a Place, the History of an Idea is not a story of ghettoes per se, but rather an exploration of how social scientists studied and wrote about the American “ghetto”. I would have preferred a more direct approach but found enough direct glimpses of the history, starting with the segregation of Jews in Rome, thanks to Paul IV (before Venice gave its name to the word ghetto), all the way to Geoffrey Canada and the Harlem’s Children Zone.
Sadly, the scientists who studied (American) ghettos don’t seem to have contributed many solutions to the phenomenon, perhaps because they were guided more by ideology than observation, let along first-hand knowledge.