Beyond the White NegroEmpathy and Anti-Racist Reading

Beyond the White NegroEmpathy and Anti-Racist Reading

Kimberly Chabot Davis

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780252038433

Publisher: University of Illinois Press

Abstract

Critics often characterize white consumption of African American culture as a form of theft that echoes the fantasies of 1950s-era bohemians, or “White Negroes,” who romanticized black culture as anarchic and sexually potent. This book claims such a view fails to describe the varied politics of racial crossover in the past fifteen years. The book analyzes how white engagement with African American novels, film narratives, and hip-hop can help form anti-racist attitudes that may catalyze social change and racial justice. Though acknowledging past failures to establish cross-racial empathy, the book focuses on examples that show avenues for future progress and change. Its study of ethnographic data from book clubs and college classrooms shows how engagement with African American culture and pedagogical support can lead to the kinds of white self-examination that make empathy possible. The result is a book that challenges the trend of focusing on society's failures in achieving cross-racial empathy and instead explores possible avenues for change.