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Carol Anderson is a professor of African-American studies at Emory University and the author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide.
Anderson’s book emerged from a viral op-ed she wrote for the Washington Post in 2014, amid the backlash to the Ferguson, Missouri, protests. She writes: "The operative question seemed to be whether African Americans were justified in their rage, even if that rage manifested itself in the most destructive, nonsensical ways. Again and again, across America’s ideological spectrum, from Fox News to MSNBC, the issue was framed in terms of black rage, which, it seemed to me, entirely missed the point.”
"That led to an epiphany: What was really at work here was white rage. With so much attention focused on the flames, everyone had ignored the logs, the kindling. In some ways, it is easy to see why. White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly.”
Anderson, a historian, set about chronicling white rage and its core trigger: black advancement. It’s a lens that makes sense not only of our past but, given this political moment, our present, too. And as you’ll hear in this conversation, it gives Anderson perspective on a question that has been obsessing me of late: Is this moment as bad as it feels, and as many of the guests on this show have suggested? Or does our level of alarm reflect of an overly nostalgic sense of our past and the way past affronts to our political ideals have cloaked themselves in more normal garb?
One note on this conversation: This was taped before Sam Harris resurrected our debate about race, IQ, and American history. So though much that Anderson says bears powerfully on my most recent podcast — as you’ll hear, Anderson brings up Charles Murray’s work unbidden — this is a separate discussion, even as it centers around many of the same themes. That makes it particularly useful if you’re still working through the questions raised in that debate.
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