review: We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide

Posted on 10 December 2018 Monday


+-+3850753856_70.jpgtitle: We Are Not Yet Equal : Understanding Our Racial Divide
author: Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden
date: Bloosmbury; 2018
YA nonfiction
This review is based up an advanced copy.

We Are Not Yet Equal is an adapted version of Anderson’s White Rage : The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. Anderson, an African American woman, is the Charles Howard Candler professor of African American Studies at Emory University who researches public policy in relation to race, justice and equity. Bolden, also an African American woman has written award winning children’s non fiction including No Small Potatoes (illustrated by Don Tate; Knopf), Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man (Abrams) and Cause: Reconstruction America, 1863 – 1877 (Knopf) .

I’ve not read White Rage and am unable to compare We Are Not Equal to the grown up version. I do know that We Are Not Yet Equal presents history to young people in a way that privileges the African American experience. Anderson and Bolden provide insights to people, events and situations that are told from a black perspective.

The trigger for white rage, inevitable, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations and with demands for full and equal citizenship. It is blackness that refuses to accept subjugation, to give up. A formidable array of policy assaults and legal contortions has consistently punished black resilience, black resolve. (p. xv)

While Anderson and Bolden are detailed in their presentation of events, they do not attempt to provide a thorough account of US history. Rather, they develop significant events that are often overlooked. While history books often linger on the Civil War battles, these authors explain how freedmen (previously enslaved blacks) lost any opportunity to gain the rights of a citizen during Reconstruction. In reading their explanation of how Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was deconstructed in the courts, readers will come to understand why schools now are more segregated than ever.

Their telling, though meticulous, is clear and concise. It’s the history that’s complex.

The US Supreme Court thus identified states as the ultimate defenders of rights, although Southern states had repeatedly proven themselves the ultimate violators of black peoples’ rights. Through antiseptic, clinical, measured language, the highest court in the land entrusted the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for black Americans to the very same states that bragged this is “a white man’s government.

So while the United States may have won the Civil War, and black people may have tasted freedom, the white opposition that ruled from the White House and the US Supreme Court all the way down through every statehouse in the South meant that real change was infinitesimal at best.” (p. 53)

In critically reviewing a text, there are two staple questions to ask. First, for whom is the book written and second, who is empowered. By presenting undeniable evidence of the inequality that exists in this country, Anderson and Bolden present a history for anyone of any race or color who wants to fully understand the racial and political history of the United States. Who is empowered? Who indeed. It’s painful reading how often you’re on the losing side of history insurmountable white rage. I can’t say that feels particularly empowering. Yet, they say the truth will set you free. A truth made visible is empowering.

This is the moment now when all of us – black, white, Latino, Native American, Asian American – must step out of the shadow of white rage, deny it’s power, understand its unseemly goals, and refuse to be seduced by its buzzwords, dog whistles, and sophistry.

This is when we choose a different future. (p. 219)

I recommend this book for every school and public library.

Posted in: Me Being Me