Title: We Are Not Yet Equal
Author: Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden
For our first non-fiction book-club read, we chose the YA adaptation of White Rage by Carol Anderson. We Are Not Yet Equal takes Anderson’s interpretation of the causes of systemic racism in the USA and makes it accessible to a teenage audience – and to anyone who has not taken an American high-school history class. Historical events are described in the context of racial inequalities, illuminating her theory that racism is the result of white rage at black progress in the US.
It’s a heartbreaking book. Resistance to the end of slavery in 1865, particularly in the southern states, led to a backlash against black communities that continues in various forms today. Some of the examples of systemic racism are focused on the former confederate states, but many take place at a national level. The authors describe an embarrassing number of opportunitites for equality that were wasted by the federal government as it tried to rebuild the union after the civil war. Throughout the twentieth century opportunities to counteract the legacy of slavery were missed, and Anderson and Bolden share a shocking number of examples of the rolling back of hard-won rights and support.
When a population is used to privilege, equality will feel like oppression. Any move towards equality will feel like an attack to the privileged class. With wealth, power, and opportunity staked in favour of white americans, moves towards equality have been successfully blocked for more than 150 years. The resulting anger and unrest in black communities has been framed as ‘black rage’, but this book demonstrates that the problem of racism is perpetuated by ‘white rage’ – anger at any progress towards equality.
It’s a difficult subject to write about, but in We Are Not Yet Equal the authors have created a clear, age-appropriate record of the fight for equality, and the complex history of racism in the USA. They don’t shy away from documenting horrific events, but everything is explained in the context of privilege, white rage, and the effects on American society of a deep resistance to change. If you’re looking for a primer on the background to Black Lives Matter movement, this is a good place to start.
Have you read We Are Not Yet Equal? What did you think of the idea of white rage? Did anything in the book surprise you? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts!
Review cross-posted to GoodReads.
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