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Beyond the White NegroEmpathy and Anti-Racist Reading$
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Kimberly Chabot Davis

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038433

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038433.001.0001

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Cross-Racial Empathy: Viewing the White Self through Black Eyes

Cross-Racial Empathy: Viewing the White Self through Black Eyes

(p.1) Introduction Cross-Racial Empathy: Viewing the White Self through Black Eyes
Beyond the White Negro

Kimberly Chabot Davis

University of Illinois Press

This introductory chapter focuses on the progressive potential of empathetic feeling to redress a scholarly bias against compassion, empathy, and sympathy, particularly in American studies. Rather than viewing empathy as a “passive ideal” and an impediment to political change, the chapter argues that it is an active cognitive process that can play an important role in changing attitudes and self-perception or even catalyzing action. Tying in with this volume's overall response to critics who believe that the forces of commodification render cultural consumption a tainted vehicle for cross-racial understanding, the chapter argues against a too-hasty dismissal of white consumption of black cultural texts as a potential conduit for social change. In addition, the chapter also discusses multiplex subjectivity and the insider–outsider debate as part of the book's broader ethnographic study.

Keywords:   empathy, commodification, cultural consumption, cross-racial understanding, black cultural texts, multiplex subjectivity, insider–outsider debate, White Negroes

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