GET THE STATE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS ON-LINE Tough, investigative reporting; the wit and good sense of Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower; Political Intelligence; insightful cultural analysis; and much more. http://texasobserver.org Subscribe on-line or call The Texas Observer at 800-939-6620 HE TEXAS THE server how race and privilege have played out in her life, but also shows how her life has been enriched by struggling with those issues. Perhaps we all should be able to be motivated by simple pleas for justice, but the fact is that people often ask whether aloud or to themselves “What’s in it for me?” Rothenberg’s book makes it clear that what’s in it for white people is a richer sense of self as well as a life that one can defend ethically and politically. In short, she shows how we can engage in the struggle to stop being white, and thereby begin to claim our humanity. Robert Jensen is an associate professor in the Department of Journalism at U.T.Austin. His essays on white privilege are available online at http :I I uts.cc.utexas.edulrjensenlfreelance. Paula Rothenberg labeled a “racism expert,” Rothenberg shows how people across identity boundaries can “ask each other’s questions” and use privilege constructively. Just as men can sometimes be particularly effective in critiquing sexism, whites can press the question of racism and try to get a hearing for issues in public forums. Such work requires accountability to groups and a social movement, along with a capacity for selfreflection and a sense of humility. Rothenberg shows how it can be done. In many ways, the final chapter, “Our Town,” is the most compelling. She points out how whites in Montclair, New Jersey, who had sought out an integrated community came to oppose an attempt to eliminate academic tracking. The change would have integrated not only the schools but the classrooms, hence threatening some white folks’ sense of entitlement to a certain kind of education for their children. She weaves in the story of the structural difficulties of fostering a friendship between her daughter and an African-American classmate, again using autobiography to honestly confront the complexity of these issues. It is in this chapter that she makes the crucial point about white privilege and institutional racism: “Many white people continue to believe that racism and sexism, like ethnic prejudice, are simply hateful at Will Cohn* titudes toward people.” They do not understand that racism and sexism are perpetrated every day by nice people who are carrying on business as usual. They do not recognize that what passes as “business as usual, already institutionalizes white skin, male, and class privilege. They honestly believe that what separates them from [a black student] and her family are intelligence and hard work.” In the epilogue, Rothenberg does readers a favor by not trying to serve up a happy ending. She tells the story of the deaths of her parents and how race and class politics were mixed up even in those private and painful moments, in the relationship of her parents to the mostly black and often immigrant nursing aides who cared for them at the end. Systematic analysis of race, racism, and privilege is important, and there is no shortage of books that do that. \(For example, George Lipsitz’ The Possessive Investment in Whiteness is one of the best at outlining But anyone who has taught, spoken publicly, or organized on issues of racial justice knows that all the facts, figures, and analysis in the world cannot always move white Americans to engage the question critically. That is why books such as Rothenberg’s are important. She not only makes clear THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27 JUNE 23, 2000
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.