Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession

Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession

by Studs Terkel

Paperback(20th Anniversary Edition)

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First published in 1992 at the height of the furor over the Rodney King incident, Studs Terkel’s Race was an immediate bestseller. Offering a rare and revealing look at how people in America truly feel about race, Terkel’s candid interviews depict a complexity of thoughts and emotions and uncover a fascinating narrative of changing opinions. Preachers and street punks, college students and Klansmen, pioneering interracial couples, the nephew of the founder of apartheid, and Emmett Till’s mother are among those whose voices appear in Race. In all, nearly one hundred Americans talk openly about what few are willing to admit in public: feelings about affirmative action, gentrification, secret prejudices, and dashed hopes.

This reissue of Race comes at a particularly dynamic time in the history of American race relations. Our first black president, rapidly shifting immigration and population patterns, and the rising force of multiracialism all necessitate a narrative around race that is more nuanced than ever before. Yet many of the issues we have grappled with over the past few decades remain to be solved. Gary Younge, a longtime columnist for The Guardian and The Nation, provides a new introduction to Race that serves to contextualize it, rendering it relevant to these contemporary frameworks, while paying homage to a keystone piece of oral history on a uniquely American subject.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595588104
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 03/13/2012
Edition description: 20th Anniversary Edition
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 621,104
Product dimensions: 5.56(w) x 8.54(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Studs Terkel (1912–2008) was the bestselling author of twelve books of oral history, including Working; Hard Times; the Pulitzer Prize–winning “The Good War”; and, most recently, his memoir Touch and Go(all available from The New Press). He was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a Presidential National Humanities Medal and the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Date of Birth:

May 16, 1912

Date of Death:

October 31, 2008

Place of Birth:

New York, NY

Place of Death:

Chicago, IL


J.D., University of Chicago, 1934

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Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
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Studs Terkel gives the reader unabashed dialogs about racism in America in his book, Race. He presents the feelings about race and experiences of people from varied social and political backgrounds, races, organizations, and gender. The book is well organized in that the interviews are broken down into real-life situational categories, such as friendships, work associates, neighbors, classmates, strangers, business dealings, etc. It does not read like a dry question and answer interview. The narratives elucidate America¿s ¿obsession with race.¿ A fitting example is the story told by a journalist, Salim Muwakkil, about how differently he would write a story for the ¿milkman in Nebraska¿ than for Mohammed Speaks, his black audience. A footnote, ¿I get so distressed at the way mainstream media treats racial matters. There¿s so little sensitivity to certain issues. A good example is police brutality. Amnesty International made the point that Chicago police deserved to be investigated because of charges of torture. The media played it up as a publicity stunt, as something to embarrass Mayor Daley. A serious problem in the black community was given short shrift.¿ exemplifies the obsession with and the wishful denial of its existence. Mark Mathabane, from South Africa, summed it up quite eloquently, ¿Racism in America tended to be seamless, yet it was pervasive.¿ According to Bob Matthieson, ¿White rage has become chic in some cases. Hatred for black people has been made socially acceptable¿Racism has been legitimized.¿ I am happy to report that it is not legitimized in my social circle! I think Ben Hensley has a better grip on the situation when he says, ¿I think most white people realize, deep, deep down, that the other person is just as good as they are. But they don¿t want to be saddled with something so hard. They like to conform.¿ Hensley also tells of his involvement with discrimination. As a white man, he was given a supervisory position over a black man who had been there longer and had more experience. Matthieson says, ¿Today, a black man walking down the streets of many of our suburbs at an odd hour will usually get a response from the police¿even if he is carrying a briefcase.¿ This kind of discrimination, according the Matthieson is based on fear of black people. Through its various dialogs, the book reveals examples of prejudice and stereotyping as well as discrimination. Kid Pharaoh was a particularly confusing character. He says he is not racist, takes black children to school on cold days, yet he refers to the children as a load of ¿coal.¿ He holds the stereotype that they (blacks) are ¿a little behind mentally¿ and that black men are more well endowed sexually than white men. He claims to be ¿pro-black,¿ yet he calls them ¿shines¿ and he says he¿d rather do time than tip ¿a fn¿ Iranian¿ taxi driver. Whew! He was a tough character to analyze. Maria Torres is the perfect example of how race is a social construction. She moved to the states from Cuba when she was six-years old. She says, ¿We live in a society where race defines almost everything. I was always white growing up until I came to the United States. Then I became a non-white, a Latino.¿ Another example of race as a social construction is when Sylvia Matthews describes her Jamaican mother. In Jamaica, the darker the skin the more racism is encountered. Her mother was light skinned and considered elite. Now she is considered to be a black American. She went from the dominant to the minority group. Terkel made this an interesting read because he included many of the voices that used metaphors to describe racism. Peggy Terry referred to the social stratification between blacks and Jews thusly: ¿The way I see it¿there has to be a top crust and a bottom crust in our society.¿ Frank Lumpkin expressed how racial tensions increase as the economy slows, by saying, ¿If the lion and t