White Men on Race

Joe R. Feagin, Author, Eileen O'Brien, Author, Eileen O'Brien, Joint Author Beacon Press (MA) $26 (224p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0980-2
The new field of""whiteness studies""--the exploration of how whites construct their racial identities and their relations with minorities--gets an eye-opening addition with this survey of upper-class white men. Sociologists Feagin and O'Brien interviewed 100 of the movers and shakers in business, academia, government and other professions--opinion makers for the white community--on their personal attitudes toward and interactions with blacks and other minorities and recorded their opinions on topics including affirmative action and interracial marriage. Their research indicates that while overt expressions of racism are rare (although not entirely absent) a pattern of subtle bias and stereotyping has emerged, part of what the authors term a""collective white consciousness."" These prominent white men tend to ascribe the social disadvantages of blacks to family breakdowns and cultural pathology, not discrimination and they oppose or have reservations about affirmative action (although they often support mild variants under other names). Members of the white male elite underestimate the effects of segregation and discrimination against blacks, overestimate the harm done to whites by""reverse discrimination,"" and still feel uneasy at the prospect of their daughters bringing black men home for dinner. The authors ascribe many of these sentiments to distorted media images and to the""white bubble"" of segregated suburbs, white-dominated workplaces and social settings, where whites seldom interact with minorities on an equal footing or gain any understanding of their lives. Moreover, there is also a""group ideology"" at work, particularly when interviewees interpret a hypothetical vignette about a white salesclerk ignoring black customers as a story about black criminality instead of a story about white discrimination. Full of sharp and nuanced insights, this book offers a revealing glimpse into the heart of whiteness.
Reviewed on: 08/01/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 275 pages - 978-0-8070-0983-3
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