cover image The White Bonus: Five Families and the Cash Value of Racism in America

The White Bonus: Five Families and the Cash Value of Racism in America

Tracie McMillan. Holt, $31.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-250-61942-6

In this intimate and eye-opening study, journalist McMillan (The American Way of Eating) documents the direct economic benefits of whiteness. Using three generations of her own family as her core example, she reevaluates her own history, acknowledging the depth of racism in Michigan, where her family has lived for generations, and tracking how racist public policies of the 20th century, like redlining and the G.I. Bill, not only discriminated against Black people, but elevated the status of white families. She draws on four other white subjects’ life stories to shed more light on how encounters with racist policy shaped white lives, including a nurse whose union involvement made her conscious of her own family’s “colorblind racism”; a pair of sisters whose white family dealt with the fallout of the white flight that changed the demographics and funding of their local school; and a young man whose whiteness provided a second chance after a teenage drug trafficking conviction. McMillan formally runs the numbers at the end of the narrative, solidifying her point: decades of racist public policies have provided outsize resources to white families in ways substantial and quantifiable, even as individual families felt they were simply making the best choices for themselves at the time. It’s a compassionate invitation to white readers to hear, and reckon with, the story of race in America as deeply personal. (Apr.)