Duck Duck Book

25 – black on white
10.16.2005, 12:03 am
Filed under: social sciences

Black on white : Black writers on what it means to be white / edited and with
an introduction by David R. Roediger.
New York : Schocken Books, c1998.
[MCL call number: 305.8 B6276 1998; two copies, no holds]

A collection of short classics on the narrow but interesting topic of just what is it with these white people anyway. The book provides a nice introduction to the work of a great number of excellent African American writers, so it is a good starting place for anyone interested in beginning a journey into African American thought and literature.

Read this book, and if you find, for example, that you like Derrick Bell’s essay on whiteness as property, well, then you can look a bit further and read his books on the history of the civil rights movements, gospel choirs, or Brown v. Board of Education. Or, if you’ve only read Toni Morrison’s fiction, you may enjoy beginning to explore her other work with the excerpt from her book Playing in the Dark.

But even if Black on White weren’t a good place to begin exploring literature, it would be worth your time, and here’s why: the idea of race has largely been defined and explicated by the people who have the most opportunity for expression: white people. An analysis of what whiteness is, what it means, how it works, and what it’s for — but one conceived and written by Black people — is bound to be fresh and interesting.

So, if you think racism and the idea of race definitions are wrong, or even if you aren’t angry about it, but you do think it’s a bit silly, then take a few hours to consider what Black people have to say about whiteness.

(Unfortunately, Black on White has no index or other supplemental endmatter.)


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