Dear White People

August 2, 2017 | 1

“[S]ometimes, one of the best ways to better understand racism is to just pick up a book.” As part of a recent tweet about his availability for racial consultation, Colson Whitehead recommended an evergreen Huffington Post piece entitled “16 Books About Race That Every White Person Should Read“, a list that includes Claudia Rankine‘s CitizenT. Geronimo Johnson‘s Welcome to Braggsville, and The Sellout by Paul Beatty, which we reviewed here. We hope he’s collecting referral fees.

is social media editor at The Millions. She lives in Brooklyn where she's currently working on her first novel. Find her online @kirstinbutler, and of course, on The Millions‘ feeds.

One comment:

  1. ““[S]ometimes, one of the best ways to better understand racism is to just pick up a book.”

    Agreed, but not in the sense Colson means; what good will reading the same old rather obvious and polemical arguments do? (Also: Christ: enough with the logrolling, man).

    If you want to be enlightened about Racism in its subtle and pervasive forms, read, for example, Paul Theroux’s “Sir Vidia’s Shadow”, Theroux’s attempt to hit back at VS Naipaul for cutting Theroux off; it is Theroux’s attempt, as well, to paint himself as a Sex/Race White Knight, at Naipaul’s expense, and it backfires *spectacularly*, especially if one read’s Patrick French’s depressingly-frank bio of Naipaul, in which we’re treated to Theroux’s own racist remarks (in letters to Naipaul, during the Writerly courtship). Theroux was a flagship White Liberal of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s… with a Conradian core.

    Theroux’s case exemplifies the illuminating paradoxes of genteel Racism… whereas Claudia Rankine’s diary of Race-tinged micro-aggressions (even her publisher uses the term) doesn’t do much more than prove that Life in the big city is tough: people will diss you/ dismiss you for all kinds of reasons, including color/ gender/ weight/ age/ class et al.

    It’s the strange (common) case of the Racist Humanists we’d do better to dig into. It’s like: we *know* George Wallace was not a nice man, but did we know about, for example, Kerouac calling a Black writer of his acquaintance a “blue-gummed N-word”… ?

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