cover image Race, an Anthology in the First Person

Race, an Anthology in the First Person

Bart Schneider, Rudolf Steiner. Random House Value Publishing, $32 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-70546-9

In May 1994, Schneider ran a questionnaire about the effect of race on readers' lives in the magazine he edits, Hungry Mind Review. The responses evolved into an issue of the magazine, which in turn inspired this book. But the pieces here are not the responses of the average white, middle-class, well-educated liberal Hungry Mind Review reader. Whether they are original pieces, previously published Hungry Mind articles or book excerpts (from John Edgar Wideman's Fatheralong, Luis Rodriguez's Always Running, Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s Colored People, for example), they are by heavy hitters. Richard Rodriguez considers the difficulty of teaching in the multicultural classroom, where reading Sherlock Holmes involves stopping at every sentence to define meerschaum and bell pull and dressing gown. John Powell recalls a discussion on the Million Man March and explains that while he lives a middle-class life, he and his son ""return to the heart of the black community"" for haircuts. Peggy McIntosh's examination of white privilege (which, she ultimately decides, should be more accurately labeled white dominance) includes a long list of items such as ""I can choose blemish cover or bandages in `flesh' color and have them more or less match my skin."" Bharati Mukherjee recalls the strong ancestral identity she wore in Calcutta and describes herself today as ""an American without hyphens."" Gates analyzes the trial of O.J. Simpson in the context of a culture in which ""`official' news has proved untrustworthy."" Leslie Marmon Silko tells tales of the Border Patrol, who not only raid public high schools to remove dark-skinned students but are suspicious of clergy ""who wear ethnic clothing or jewelry, and women who wear very long hair or very short hair (they could be nuns)."" Race is a touchy and difficult subject (Schneider himself admits to fear of ""entering a messy territory in which it seemed nothing useful could be said""). It is a messiness that's reflected in the diversity and perplexity of many of these essays. (Feb.)