White Elites And The Struggles Of African Americans in "White Rage"

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White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, examines the way white elites have impeded and blocked the forward progress for African Americans, for selfish hateful reasons. This is what Anderson calls “white rage.” The book is broken up into five chapters which lay out the five key struggles for African American advance and white resistance. Anderson tells the story of the opposition whites held against these major turning points in American history and the way they contended the push for equality. She uses Supreme Court cases, newspapers and local regulations as facts to prove her position. The stories that Anderson highlights are the behind the scenes actions of well-known historical events, this strengthens her argument about the failed opportunities that could have been taken to end the racial divide and instead used to fuel it. Within the first chapter “Reconstructing Reconstruction” on the Reconstruction Era, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War are mentioned, but the focus tends to be more based on Andrew Johnson and the accommodations he made in order to keep the states unified. The Civil War helped to pass the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. These amendments offered freedom, civil rights, and the right to vote without discrimination. However, even after these amendments were signed into action, Andrew Johnson allowed the Jim Crow laws and the “Black Codes” which restricted African American freedoms. Anderson depicts how the instability of the south could compromise the amendments made for reconstruction after the Civil War. Anderson then discusses the Great Migration. African Americans across the country had been kept in conditions similar to slavery. Anderson shows how whites fought with everything they had to keep the African Americans in a wage free economy of slavery. The north seemed like the “dream land” for African Americans, it was said that in the north your efforts would be rewarded regardless of your race. The terrible conditions of the south with the notion that the north was better fueled people to migrate that way. Southern cities did everything possible in order to stop the migration of these cheap laborers to moving north. They stopped allowing newspapers to show the jobs hiring up north, as well as imposing penalties on those who quit. Anderson also focuses on how the black workers were treated when they arrived after leaving the cruel conditions of the south. White rage occurred when the landmark Supreme Court decision in the Brown vs. Board of Education case was revealed to make segregated schools illegal. Anderson shares the great lengths that states went to ensure the white and black students would be kept separate.

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The school boards had “freedom-of-choice plans ensuring that the parents could move their children away from the schools that were threatened with desegregation which ultimately closed some public schools. Not seeing education as a basic right was essentially whites hurting themselves because while trying to hurt the African American population, their children could not go to school either ultimately hurting their own kids. Schools closing for an extended period of time at a young age could be harmful to their minds as they are constantly absorbing new information. Fighting for segregation like this could be seen as detrimental for not only the children within the school district but for the parents and community surrounding it. The parents then have to make a choice as to whether to let their parents stay at home or skip work to supervise them. The argument here seems to be more harmful than necessary. Is it really worth no children being educated as opposed to the education happening next to an African American child? That is where the line needs to be drawn. Instead of focusing on the stories of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat or Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in the Civil Rights Movement, Anderson discusses gerrymandering and tactics that made it more difficult for African Americans to vote. Gerrymandering is the manipulation of boundaries to favor a specific party for the election. This process essentially works by wasting votes of the people in those specific districts. The election is based on districts and in order to win the candidates control who the campaign for in order to maximize the votes they receive on election day. However, gerrymandering is not the only way that white elites made an impact on the election. The War on Drugs also played a huge role in the suppression of the African American community. The African Americans were made out as large scale criminals when incarcerated for drug crimes. Anderson shows how any racist intentions can be disguised in a multitude of ways. It can be said that African Americans were jailed because of the drugs they had on them, yet it can also be said that they were imprisoned because of their race. If it weren’t for most of those convicted during the War on Drugs being African American then they might have never suspected the drugs on a white man. In the last chapter, “How to Unelect a Black President” Anderson discusses Obama’s presidency. This is discussed in terms of the rage that ensued because of his race. The main concern was with the conspiracy that the ballot box was stuffed and therefore an inaccurate representation of the country. Another challenge was made about the changing of the district boundaries to change election outcomes. Anderson again details the actions where whites are violating the Voting Rights Act, challenging voters, causing delays and any obstruction that would impede their right to vote and force them to leave behind an empty ballot.

The Fifteenth Amendment says that the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. There were some discrete ways of going about not allowing the African Americans to vote including threats of violence to those who wished to cast their vote, poll taxes, and literacy tests. This was seen as just another way that white people would choose to fuel the racial divide instead of ending it. Rather than respecting African Americans and their ambitions to fit into an equal and just society, the black aspirations and achievements are seen as a threat. When Obama was elected as president this was shown directly. Electing the first black president to the United States of America was not seen as an inspirational step forward for our nation. Instead, the election of our first black president had elevated the prevalence of the racial tensions within our nation. There are claims the ballot box was stuffed, he won the presidency illegitimately, and even that he was not an American citizen. Unfortunately, they country did everything possible to remove this man from office solely because of his race. There are always conspiracies that the election is rigged, but in this case the question of citizenship was a striking representation of the white rage that was meant to halt the forward progress of African Americans defined by Anderson. The Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution was adopted in 1868. The Jim Crow Laws were enforced until 1965. These Laws mandated the segregation of public schools, transportation, bathrooms, water fountains and everything in between. The Fourteenth Amendment says that no state shall make or enforce any law that abridges the privileges of citizens, nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The Jim Crow Laws were laws made and enforced to abridge the rights of African Americans. These African Americans were citizens of the United States and therefore the Fourteenth Amendment should have protected them. The Constitution should have been upheld during these times and unfortunately the racial divide seemed to be of more importance at the time than the rights that were supposed to be upheld by the Constitution of the United States of America. Anderson examines the way white elites have impeded and blocked the forward progress for African Americans, for selfish hateful reasons. This is what Anderson calls “white rage.” The book is broken up into five chapters “Reconstructing Reconstruction, Derailing the Great Migration, Burning Brown to the Ground, Rolling Back Civil Rights, and How to Unelect a Black President” which lay out the five key struggles for African American advance and white resistance.

Anderson tells the story of the opposition whites held against these major turning points in American history and the way they contended the push for equality. She uses Supreme Court cases like Brown vs. Board of Education, newspapers and local regulations as facts to prove her position that if it weren’t for white rage against the idea that African Americans should have equal rights then the racial tensions and large divide we see today would no longer exist. The Equal Rights Movement would be seen as less of a burden and rather, more of an inspiration to the people of the United States. Unfortunately, there is still racism and tensions that will never fully be dissolved due to the terrible treatment of those of color in the past, even if one day the racism is no longer visible. The stories that Anderson highlights are the behind the scenes actions of well-known historical events such as Obama’s election, the Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. Board of Education, and the abolition of the Jim Crow Laws. This expands upon Anderson’s argument about the failed opportunities throughout history that could have been used to end the racial divide years ago, but was instead used to fuel the tensions in the racial divide we still see today.

01 February 2021

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