Carol Anderson on White Rage

In Williams Hall on September 21, Carol Anderson presented for OxStudies on her book White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of our Racial Divide. Anderson began her presentation with the definition of white rage, a term she created, and went into specific examples where blacks have been affected by white rage. The term white rage is a term I have been looking for all my life and have not been able to find. White rage means that the structure of racism has brought about white anger and bitterness towards blacks. Blacks are among the hardest working in the U.S. but receive little recognition and acceptance of their efforts for upward social, educational, and economic movement. Anderson is an exceptional public speaker, and I can only hope to be able to practice my public speaking skills enough to equal the fluidity, pace, humor, and character that she managed to pack into her lecture.

Anderson’s book opened my eyes to a whole new level of social problems being perpetuated by societies’ inherent nature to reproduce the institutions they are founded upon. Anderson’s emphasis on “social elites” staying in power by socializing people to take rights from others is a thought I have only seriously begun to ponder beginning in my freshman year here at Oxford. Her presentation was relevant concerning today’s social atmosphere, especially considering the recent election, and her presentation was especially emotionally powerful.

I was shocked the most during this presentation when Anderson addressed concrete walls that blacks have historically faced in attaining education. In high school I was taught about Plessy vs. Ferguson, which upheld state segregation laws, and the follow-up case Brown vs. Board of Education that upturned the laws that made facilities for blacks “separate but equal.” Anderson added a new level of depth to this information. It concerns me that in some black communities the quality of education historically was not only ranked lower than that of white communities, but that black school quality ratings that would have failed inspection had those quality ratings been assigned to a white school.

Where Anderson makes a decisive point about social problems, especially those concerning race, is that social elites work hard to train our society to focus on the flames (the aftermath) of problems from racism instead of to focus on the kindling (the causes) of problems from racism. U.S. society is based on a structure where the social elites work hard to create social stratification from anything that can be socially differentiated whether that be the color of one’s skin, nationality, gender, or class among a plethora of other differences. How else would crack have been criminalized for blacks in the U.S., but crack is seen as a health crisis for those of lighter skin tone in the U.S.? Anderson rightly argues that blacks are at a set back because whites would rather not have more competition.

After the presentation, Anderson opened the floor for questions. A fellow student, raised the question of how to best preform research. Anderson responded: “you interrogate, you interrogate everything when looking at sources,” and she added on the side that possibly the best way for society to overcome racism is for more people to ask questions about everything. Once more people begin seeing the causes of racism and other social problems they will begin laying the foundation for society to move towards positive change to overcome those problems.

I am so excited that Anderson is a professor of African American Studies at Emory University and am glad that Emory students have her as a resource.