I recently realized that in writing this blog, I haven't done enough to acknowledge many of my sources for information about white folks and the ongoing reality of white supremacy. So I should pause in my writing of this blog to say something that I haven't said often or fully enough--my understanding of the ways of white folks is fundamentally informed by the knowledge and insights of non-white people.
To put it as simply as I can: understanding white people has been a matter of life or death for non-white people, so many of them have come to understand a lot of things about white people, and about how race operates in society, that most white people don't know.
As I write about whiteness, and as I work against it in my daily life, I continuously draw on what amounts to an ongoing tradition, an especially African American tradition, of analyzing and recording the ways of white folks. In order to give some credit where credit is due, I added a subtitle to this blog from a favorite book of mine, The Ways of White Folks, by Langston Hughes. He's a writer whose work continues to receive accolades for his insightful and artful depictions of black feelings, thought, and behavior, but virtually no recognition for his equally penetrating insight into white feelings, thought, and behavior.
Today I'm also offering, much later than I should have in the course of writing this blog, the following list of materials that have especially informed my understanding. These writings generously offer non-white knowledge about the thoughts, feelings, and behavior of white folks, and about white supremacy and hegemony. White folks especially should read (or watch) some of them, and listen, and incorporate them into their understanding of themselves and their own racialized positions in the world.
There isn't room here for me to list all such works, nor to describe each of them, so I've added links to other online sources for each, when I could find them. This list is by no means complete. I'm sure it also fails to give enough credit to non-white writers on whiteness who are not African American. If you know of any more works that could appear on this list, please let me know, either in a comment or via email (unmakingmacon at gmail dot com), and if they clearly fit, I will add them. I'll also add any work that occurs to me later.
[Thanks to Tim Wise for suggesting a post of this sort. And by way of returning the favor: Tim is requesting help with a book he's writing, Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and Whiteness in the Age of Obama. You can go here for more information, including how to point him to potentially useful materials.]
Damali Ayo, How to Rent a Negro (2005)
James Baldwin, "Stranger in the Village" (1955); The Fire Next Time (1963); "Going to Meet the Man" (short story, 1965); "The Price of the Ticket" (1985)
Valerie Babb, Whiteness Visible: The Meaning of Whiteness in American Literature and Culture (1998)
Mia Bay, The White Image in the Black Mind African-American Ideas about White People, 1830-1925 (2000)
Octavia Butler, Kindred (novel, 1979)
Shakti Butler, Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible (film, 2006)
Charles W. Chesnutt, "The Passing of Grandison" (short story, 1899)
Eldridge Cleaver, "The White Race and Its Heroes" (1968)
Vine Deloria, Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact (1995)
W.E.B. DuBois, "The Souls of White Folks" (1920)
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (1952)
Cheryl I. Harris, "Whiteness as Property" (1993)
bell hooks, "Representations of Whiteness in the Black Imagination" (1992)
Langston Hughes, The Ways of White Folks (short stories, 1933)
Zora Neale Hurston, Seraph on the Suwanee (novel, 1948)
Michelle T. Johnson, Working While Black: The Black Person's Guide to Success in the White Workplace (2004)
Chang-rae Lee, Aloft (novel, 2004)
Joseph Marshall III, "White Lore" (1998)
Charles Mills, The Racial Contract (1997)
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (1970); "Recitatif" (short story, 1983); Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992)
Adrian Piper, "Cornered" (art installation, 1988); "Passing for White/Passing for Black" (1992)
David Roediger, Black on White: Black Writers on What it Means to be White (anthology, 1999)
Danzy Senza, Caucasia (novel, 1998)
George Schuyler, Black No More (novel, 1931)
Ronald Takaki, Iron Cages: Race and Culture in 19th-Century America (1979)
Thandeka, Learning to Be White: Race, Money and God in America (2000)
Melvin Van Peebles, Watermelon Man (film, 1970)
Richard Wright, Savage Holiday (novel, 1954)
Frank H. Wu, Yellow (2002)
George Yancy, What White Looks Like: African-American Philosophers on the Whiteness Question (2004)