Built on a mountain of historical insight and irrefutable evidence, White Rage provides a damning indictment of the United States’ purported progress toward a desegregated, racially modern society of equal opportunity for all. Carol Anderson presents a searing account of the ongoing governmental and societal roadblocks built to restrict and counteract Black advancement from emancipation to the present. The last 150+ years of laws and constitutional amendments to even the scales and provide Blacks the same opportunities as the rest of the U.S. population have been little more than a smoke screen for the underlying racism and xenophobia ever present in U.S. society. Look no further than the election of Trump and the uptick of racist rhetoric, proliferation of hate groups, and the ascent of the alt-right to a mainstream political movement to illustrate Anderson’s argument in real time.
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 was a milestone for the United States. But his election and the next eight years of his presidency were met with open hostility by the Republicans in Congress who gathered together on the same night Obama became president and vowed to oppose him at every turn, to be obstructionist on all sides. A Black man had become president. There was no way they would allow him to be a successful president as well.
The Constitution of the United States is an interesting document. Viewed on its own merits, the document provides a blanket of freedom, egalitarianism, and democracy over its constituents. In reality, it was written by white, male landowners—of whom many owned slaves—complicit in the on-going genocide of the native population that would decimate close to 300 million native peoples between 1600 to 1900. The Constitution was intended to protect the interests of these white, wealthy land-owning men; therein lies the ugly paradoxical truth of our country. We live in a country built on the shoulders of slavery and the genocide of the Native American/First Peoples population. Africans brought here against their will helped build the American economy. Native Americans/First Peoples were murdered en masse so the United States could steal the land necessary to fulfill the White “Manifest Destiny.” Historically, the poorest per capita groups in the United States are Blacks and Native Americans/First Peoples.
White Rage clearly shows there is an ongoing racist undertow within society to perpetuate and exacerbate the economic and social placement of Blacks within our society. If you do not feel Anderson’s theory holds, look to the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia where Stacy Abrams could become the first Black female governor. The amount of alleged voter suppression in Georgia is extreme even for today’s polarized political environment. A vast majority of the 53,000 pending voter applications being held in limbo are for Black voters. Brian Kemp, the man overseeing these applications, also happens to be the man running against Stacy Abrams for governor. With no concern for the appearance of impropriety, Kemp isn’t even considering recusing himself from a position that could clearly sway the election his way. The opposition party is working overtime to make sure Abrams does not make history.
Anderson recounts a story from 1918 Georgia that bears repeating. Hampton Smith, a white plantation owner, was a brutal employer known for whipping, beating and not paying his employees. After receiving a brutal beating at Smith’s hands, Sidney Johnson came back a week later and killed Smith. The white rampage that followed the murder included the savage murders of at least 11 Blacks who had no connection to Smith’s murder. For the Johnson’s wife, the mob went the extra mile. “They dragged Mary to a tree, stripped her, tied her ankles together, and strung her upside down. The men ran to their cars, brought back gasoline and began ‘to roast her alive.’” Mary was eight months pregnant. This discovery sent the mob into a frenzy. “One man took out his knife and sliced away at her charred flesh until the baby…fell to the ground and gave two cries. Someone in the party then stepped forward and smashed the child’s head into the red Georgia dirt with the heels of his boot.” (p.39-40). This happened 100 years ago. As a nation, we want to believe that we have left all of this in our past. Carol Anderson begs to differ.
Review originally published by the author on his website at jasonsquirefluck.com.