Thinking about Race

2017 Items

James Baldwin - (April 2017)

Excerpt from Review: “I Am Not Your Negro” Will Make You Rethink Race – by A.O. Smith in the New York Times, February 2, 2017.

“Baldwin could not have known about Ferguson and Black Lives Matter, about the presidency of Barack Obama and the recrudescence of white nationalism in its wake, but in a sense he explained it all in advance. He understood the deep, contradictory patterns of our history, and articulated, with a passion and clarity that few others have matched, the psychological dimensions of racial conflict: the suppression of black humanity under slavery and Jim Crow and the insistence on it in African-American politics and art; the dialectic of guilt and rage, forgiveness and denial that distorts relations between black and white citizens in the North as well as the South; the lengths that white people will go to wash themselves clean of their complicity in oppression.”

"Muslim Girl" by Amani Al-Khatahbeg - (March 2017)

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh was nine years old on September 11, 2001, and could see the destruction of the World Trade Center towers from her home in New Jersey. After that, experiencing anti-Muslim attitudes and behavior through her school years, she found her voice and founded It started as a blog in 2009 and turned into a highly popular, highly regarded website, thus giving voice to many others. Her book, Muslim Girl, A Coming of Age, describes her journey.

“I feel that the horrible scapegoating we’ve had to endure has forced us into a corner of defensiveness, dissipating our energy in this endless game of pushing back against the misconceptions that ultimately victimize us. …. It makes me sad to think about all the resources the Muslim American community has been forced to waste for the past decade on campaigns, events, and media efforts to prove that we, too, are Americans; that we, too, are human, betting and pleading the public not to believe the racist rhetoric being spewed about us. I can’t imagine the types of institutions, programs, and civic society we could have cultivated for our community—the type of backbone we could have had the opportunity to grow—had we not been forced into this position.” (pp. 44-45)

"The Fire This Time" by Jesmyn Ward - (February 2017)

For this 2016 book, The Fire This Time, author Jesmyn Ward*, after the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, invited other African American writers to share their thoughts. In her introduction, she calls it, “A book that would reckon with the fire of rage and despair and fierce, protective love currently sweeping through the streets and campuses of America. A book that would gather new voices in one place, in a lasting, physical form, and provide a forum for those writers to dissent, to call to account, to witness, to reckon.” Among those writers is Carol Anderson, whose essay “White Rage” makes some of the same points as her book by the same title, cited in our December “Thinking about Race” column.

“Protests and looting naturally capture attention. But the real rage smolders in meetings where officials redraw precincts to dilute African American voting strength or seek to slash the government payrolls that have long served as sources of black employment. It goes virtually unnoticed, however, because white rage doesn’t have to take to the streets and face rubber bullets to be heard. Instead, white rage carries an aura of respectability and has access to the courts, police, legislatures, and governors, who cast its efforts as noble, though they are actually driven by the most ignoble motivations.”

*Ward’s novels to date are Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, which won the 2011 National Book Award. Her 2013 memoir, Men We Reaped, has won multiple awards.