White Men Challenging Racism

35 Personal Stories

White Men Challenging Racism

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 3 illus. Published: April 2003

Activism, Gender and Sexuality, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

White Men Challenging Racism is a collection of first-person narratives chronicling the compelling experiences of thirty-five white men whose efforts to combat racism and fight for social justice are central to their lives. Based on interviews conducted by Cooper Thompson, Emmett Schaefer, and Harry Brod, these engaging oral histories tell the stories of the men’s antiracist work. While these men discuss their accomplishments with pride, they also talk about their mistakes and regrets, their shortcomings and strategic blunders. A foreword by James W. Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, provides historical context, describing antiracist efforts undertaken by white men in America during past centuries.

Ranging in age from twenty-six to eighty-six, the men whose stories are presented here include some of the elder statesmen of antiracism work as well as members of the newest generation of activists. They come from across the United States—from Denver, Nashville, and San Jose; rural North Carolina, Detroit, and Seattle. Some are straight; some are gay. A few—such as historian Herbert Aptheker, singer/songwriter Si Kahn, Stetson Kennedy (a Klan infiltrator in the 1940s), and Richard Lapchick (active in organizing the sports community against apartheid)—are relatively well known; most are not. Among them are academics, ministers, police officers, firefighters, teachers, journalists, union leaders, and full-time community organizers. They work with Latinos and African-, Asian-, and Native-Americans. Many ground their work in spiritual commitments. Their inspiring personal narratives—whether about researching right-wing groups, organizing Central American immigrants, or serving as pastor of an interracial congregation—connect these men with one another and with their allies in the fight against racism in the United States.

All authors’ royalties go directly to fund antiracist work. To read excerpts from the book, please visit http://www.whitemenchallengingracism.com/


"[I]nspiring and challenging. . . . [T]o its credit, the book seeks to build bridges between groupings-white and black, gay and straight, old and young-by offering role models of men of various ages and from multiple geographic regions, with different politics and levels of commitment, all engaged in living and working for a more just nation." — Robert Fisher, Journal of Southern History

"[R]eaders will surely walk away with a fuller understanding of the history of antiracism, a better sense of how and why individual white men have challenged the system, and likely find themselves moved to act differently in their lives. . . . [White Men Challenging Racism] deserve[s] wide circulation, meriting attention from scholars concerned with whiteness, ethnic identity and race relations, as well as those thinking about cultural politics, youth culture, social movements, and gender in the contemporary United States. . . . instructors of introductory courses would be well advised to consider excerpts from White Men Challenging Racism precisely because they are readable reflections on whiteness and all that it entails, but arguably more importantly because it offers concrete and inspiring examples of individuals working against the privilege and oppression central to the United States as a white-centered, white-focused, and white-dominated society."
— C. Richard King, American Studies International

"This book provides role models of white people who have rejected the racial hierarchy of their society and fought for a more humane vision." — Sage Race Relations Abstracts

"[These] narratives form a powerful counterpoint to the trend toward 'colorblindness' that often signifies white indifference to the plight of minorities. . . . Readers interested in different perspectives on social justice will enjoy this collection." — Vernon Ford , Booklist

"[U]nique. . . . [The] vivid and emotional personal accounts . . . make this book so valuable for anyone interested in race relations. . . . [T]hought-provoking. . . . [A] great book that is not only informative and interesting to read, but uplifting and very personal in nature." — Jacob Arndt, Journal of Intergroup Relations

"Co-authors Cooper Thompson, Emmett Schaefer, and Harry Brod go about their project in time-honored oral history fashion, providing Studs-Terkel style oral portraits of thirty-five men. The results showcase many of oral history’s strengths, presenting a range and depth and nuance that makes clear not only the extent to which racial privilege is woven into American society, but the variety of endeavors required to combat it and the profound humanity of those who fight these battles." — Pamela Grundy , Oral History Review

"I make it a point to honor African-Americans who fight on the front lines of the struggle, but it's also important to recognize that some white people challenge racism all the time, even if their voices often get drowned out by all the angry white males who still resist racial change. It's good to see those people recognized with a book such as White men Challenging Racism so their voices can also be heard." — Eugene Kane , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"In addition to trying to come to terms with their race and gender, these men address issues about their sexuality, religion, economic situations, families, relationships, parenting, jobs, and past traumas. The book succeeds because it soberly presents the victories, risks, and personal sacrifices of men who do antiracist work." — Loren Frankel , Journal of Men's Studies

"The editors are sensitive to the charge that their singular focus on white men is misguided, but in their view, this is a project that links the personal and the political in a way that others might find comfort in and take inspiration from. This reviewer thinks they're right. Recommended." — P. Kivisto , Choice

"There is a great deal of fascinating material gathered here, and the interviews are frequently moving without being self-congratulatory or smug. . . . As a teaching tool this book has a value that goes beyond its mission as an uplifting read. The introduction offers an important discussion of methodology, useful to all ethnographers and oral historians working on racialization." — Vron Ware , Ethnic and Racial Studies

"These self-portraits speak of courage, empowerment, and overcoming the obstacles in joining collective action. . . .So, what do we do with these stories of valor, resolve, and dignity? We can use them as classroom material to illustrate that politics in America is not just about "stupid or angry white men." Undergraduate students are likely to appreciate that insight." — Javier Auyero, Contemporary Sociology

“It is inspiring to read about white men who are working on the complex task of eliminating racism. In these times of backlash against civil rights gains of the past, we need more fighters like these. Yesterday's movement was truly interracial and today's must be as well.” — Julian Bond, Chair, NAACP, and Professor of History, University of Virginia and American University

”With range, depth, and integrity, the narratives in this collection flesh out both the ‘promise and the way of life’ of white people who have taken on racism as central to their life work. White Men Challenging Racism is a valuable contradiction to the construct of ‘angry white men’ that has fueled racial backlash over the past twenty years.” — Mab Segrest, author of Memoirs of a Race Traitor


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Cooper Thompson is a senior consultant at visions, a multicultural consulting organization.

Emmett Schaefer is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

Harry Brod is Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at the University of Northern Iowa. He is the editor of The Making of Masculinities.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword / James W. Loewen xv

Preface xxxi

Acknowledgments xxxv

Introduction: Just Living 1

Movement Elders

Herbert Aptheker, 86, radical historian; San Jose, CA 17

Stetson Kennedy, 85, journalist and Klan infiltrator; Jacksonville, FL 27

Art Branscombe, 81, fought for a racially integrated neighborhood; Denver, CO 37

Horace Seldon, 77, coalition builder; Boston, MA 44

Pat Cusick, 70, community organizer; Boston, MA 51

Nat Yalowitz, 70, social worker and organizer; New York, NY 60

Grassroots Organizing

Jesse Wimberley, 43, organizes working-class white men; West End, NC 73

Jim Hansen, 42, executive director, United Vision for Idaho; Boise, ID 82

Chip Berlet, 52, researches right wing groups; Cambridge, MA 90

Joe Fahey, 44, union official and labor organizer; Watsonville, CA 99

Mike McMahon, 60, community organizer with Central American immigrants; Houston, TX 109

Art and Politics

David Attyah, 34, graphic artist and founder of Think Again; San Francisco, CA 121

Si Kahn, 57, singer/songwriter and executive director of Grassroots Leadership; Charlotte, NC 132

Steve Bailey, 43, executive director of Jump-Start Performance Company; San Antonio, TX 143

Tim Wise, 33, writer, lecturer, social critic, and activist; Nashville, TN 152

Billy Yalowitz, 42, community-based performance director and choreographer; Philadelphia, PA 164

Challenging the System from Within

John Allocca, 39, bilingual Spanish teacher; Boston, MA 175

Bill Johnston, 60, former Boston police officer; Emerald Isle, NC 185

A. T. Miller, 43, teacher and director of multiculturalism at University of Michigan; Ann Arbor, MI 194

Ken Kimerling, 56, lawyer for Puerto Rican and Asian American civil rights; New York, NY 203

Monte Piliawsky, 57, teacher and historian; Detroit, MI 212

Lonnie Lusardo, 56, consultant and community organizer; Seattle, WA 222

Lee Formwalt, 51, historian and dean at a historically black college; Albany, GA 228

Nibs Stroupe, 55, minister of a multiracial congregation; Decatur, GA 237

Challenging the System from the Margins

John Cole Vodicka, 53, founder of the Prison and Jail Project; Americus, GA 249

Richard Lapchick, 56, advocate for racial and gender justice in sports and society; Orlando FL 258

Chris Shuey, 46, environmental health specialist; Albuquerque, NM 265

Terry Kupers, 58, psychiatrist, prison activist, and author; Oakland, CA 272

Rick Whaley, 51, Native American treaty rights advocate; Milwaukee, WI 280

Jim Murphy, 54, firefighter and advocate for children's rights in Southeast Asia; Boston, MA 289

The Next Generation

Sean Cahill, 38, researcher with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; New York, NY

Tobin Miller Shearer, 36, director of a Mennonite anti-racism initiative; Akron, PA 305

Jason Wallach, 32, grassroots coordinator for the Mexico Solidarity Network; Chicago, IL 314

Bill Vandenberg, 31, co-executive director of the Colorado Progressive Coalition; Denver, CO 322

Matt Reese, 26, community activist; Louisville, KY 330

Appendix 339

Endnotes 343

Suggestions for Further Reading 351

About the Authors 355
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3096-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3084-4
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