Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel about the American Obsession

Overview

In this timely and significant Bookcassette, Studs Terkel interweaves the experiences and opinions of a variety of people - blacks and whites, men and women - from all walks of life. As one of our greatest interviewers, he encourages people to speak their minds with great frankness about the subject of race and about their perceptions of the leadership in Washington. Nearly a hundred Americans talk openly about attitudes that few are willing to...
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Overview

In this timely and significant Bookcassette, Studs Terkel interweaves the experiences and opinions of a variety of people - blacks and whites, men and women - from all walks of life. As one of our greatest interviewers, he encourages people to speak their minds with great frankness about the subject of race and about their perceptions of the leadership in Washington. Nearly a hundred Americans talk openly about attitudes that few are willing to admit in public.

While the problems of race have existed since the first slave ship landed in colonial America, it is compelling to be reminded that we still have two separate and unequal societies in this country.

Terkel interweaves the experiences and opinions of a variety of people--from all walks of life--about the subject of race and about their perceptions of the Washington leadership. 6 cassettes.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The first title from Andre Schiffrin's publishing house is a major, timely book for an election year. In Terkel's ( Hard Times ) well-established manner--he is one of the great interviewers--he encourages a wide range of Americans, black and white, to speak their minds about race with remarkable frankness, as well as about their perceptions of the Washington leadership. The resulting book is infinitely more informative than polls taken on such issues because the subjects are allowed to explore their thoughts, prejudices, hopes and fears. There is almost universal agreement among the blacks and white sympathizers interviewed that life looks darker for blacks now than it did 20 years ago. A strong commitment to civil rights, meaningful affirmative action and poverty programs and a social climate in which overt racism was unacceptable all apparently suffered during the Reagan years. And now the economic hardships that are also partly a legacy of that era are further polarizing American society in ways that are seldom discussed. As South African author Rian Malan tells Terkel, ``I think there's been an unhealthy trend in America for a long time not to discuss race. . . . I think airing prejudice could be healthy. . . . Race prejudice is something that thrives in ignorance.'' But optimism is hard to come by. Black psychologist Kenneth Clark states: ``I am not sanguine about any kind of solid decency and justice in the area of race in America. The best we can settle for is appearance.'' The immediacy with which the interviewees speak about their experiences brings a fine leavening of anecdotes and stories to the mix of opinions, from tales of run-ins with the police (``I don't know one black person who's never had an encounter with cops,'' says a young middle-class musician) to moments of surprising warmth and understanding, as when a former Klansman finds himself working as a union leader with his arch-enemy, a formidable black woman. The reader comes away with greatly expanded understanding of much recent American social history and a wish that more respondents could display the balance of the well-adjusted mixed couples whose testimonies end the book. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385468893
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/1993
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 403
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.16 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Studs Terkel
Studs Terkel
One of the greatest oral historians of the 20th century, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, actor, and broadcaster Studs Terkel was a national treasure and a beloved institution in his native Chicago. His award-winning books, based on conversations with Americans from all walks of life, form a unique chronicle of a nation in the throes of socio-political change.

Biography

As a young boy in the early 1920s, Louis "Studs" Terkel moved with his family from New York to Chicago, the sprawling, high-energy city he would call home for the rest of his life. His parents managed hotels catering to a varied and colorful clientele. Listening to the conversations of the tenants, young Terkel developed an early interest in people and their stories and a wide-ranging intellectual curiosity that would lead him in many directions.

He received his law degree from the University of Chicago, but never became a practicing attorney, Instead, he worked briefly in Washington, D.C., then returned to Chicago to take a job in FDR's Works Progress Administration acting and writing plays. In 1939, he married Ida Goldberg. The marriage endured for 60 years, until Ida's death in 1999. He joined the Army during WWII but was discharged because of perforated eardrums. Around this time, he embarked on a long, varied broadcasting career as a sportscaster, news commentator, and disc jockey. He ventured into TV in the 1950s with a relaxed, breezy variety show that helped define the Chicago School of Television, but returned to radio in 1952 with the a daily program of music and interviews that continued for the next 45 years. Among a constellation of memorable guests were Buster Keaton, Billie Holiday, James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Tennessee Williams, Gloria Steinem, and Bob Dylan.

Although his first book Giants of Jazz was published in 1957, Terkel's writing career began in earnest a decade later with Division Street, a book of transcribed interviews with Chicagoans from every walk of life. Hailed by The New Yorker as "totally absorbing," this groundbreaking study paved the way for bestselling oral histories of the Great Depression (Hard Times), the working class (Working), WWII (the Pulitzer Prize winner The Good War), and growing old in America (Coming of Age). He also penned several memoirs, including Talking to Myself (1977), My American Century (1997), and Touch and Go (2007).

Active and engaged to the end, Terkel died in October of 2008 at the age of 96. In its obituary, the Chicago Tribune reprinted this epigrammatic quote from the iconic writer: "My epitaph? My epitaph will be, 'Curiosity did not kill this cat."

Good To Know

Terkel's famous nickname derives from the fictional character Studs Lonigan from James T. Farrell's 1930s coming-of-age trilogy.

Famously outspoken, Terkel was blacklisted from television during the McCarthy era for his "incendiary" political views. Fortunately, he found a wider audience when he was hired by Chicago's fine arts radio station WFMT, where his program was a daily staple for 45 years.

Instantly recognizable by his attire, Terkel always wore a red-checked shirt, grey trousers, and a blue blazer.

He appeared in Eight Men Out, John Sayles's 1988 film about the Chicago Black Sox Scandal of 1919.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Louis "Studs" Terkel
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 16, 1912
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, NY
    1. Date of Death:
      October 31, 2008
    2. Place of Death:
      Chicago, IL

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2002

    A good insight to race perceptions in America

    Studs Terkel gives the reader unabashed dialogs about racism in America in his book, Race. He presents the feelings about race and experiences of people from varied social and political backgrounds, races, organizations, and gender. The book is well organized in that the interviews are broken down into real-life situational categories, such as friendships, work associates, neighbors, classmates, strangers, business dealings, etc. It does not read like a dry question and answer interview. The narratives elucidate America¿s ¿obsession with race.¿ A fitting example is the story told by a journalist, Salim Muwakkil, about how differently he would write a story for the ¿milkman in Nebraska¿ than for Mohammed Speaks, his black audience. A footnote, ¿I get so distressed at the way mainstream media treats racial matters. There¿s so little sensitivity to certain issues. A good example is police brutality. Amnesty International made the point that Chicago police deserved to be investigated because of charges of torture. The media played it up as a publicity stunt, as something to embarrass Mayor Daley. A serious problem in the black community was given short shrift.¿ exemplifies the obsession with and the wishful denial of its existence. Mark Mathabane, from South Africa, summed it up quite eloquently, ¿Racism in America tended to be seamless, yet it was pervasive.¿ According to Bob Matthieson, ¿White rage has become chic in some cases. Hatred for black people has been made socially acceptable¿Racism has been legitimized.¿ I am happy to report that it is not legitimized in my social circle! I think Ben Hensley has a better grip on the situation when he says, ¿I think most white people realize, deep, deep down, that the other person is just as good as they are. But they don¿t want to be saddled with something so hard. They like to conform.¿ Hensley also tells of his involvement with discrimination. As a white man, he was given a supervisory position over a black man who had been there longer and had more experience. Matthieson says, ¿Today, a black man walking down the streets of many of our suburbs at an odd hour will usually get a response from the police¿even if he is carrying a briefcase.¿ This kind of discrimination, according the Matthieson is based on fear of black people. Through its various dialogs, the book reveals examples of prejudice and stereotyping as well as discrimination. Kid Pharaoh was a particularly confusing character. He says he is not racist, takes black children to school on cold days, yet he refers to the children as a load of ¿coal.¿ He holds the stereotype that they (blacks) are ¿a little behind mentally¿ and that black men are more well endowed sexually than white men. He claims to be ¿pro-black,¿ yet he calls them ¿shines¿ and he says he¿d rather do time than tip ¿a fn¿ Iranian¿ taxi driver. Whew! He was a tough character to analyze. Maria Torres is the perfect example of how race is a social construction. She moved to the states from Cuba when she was six-years old. She says, ¿We live in a society where race defines almost everything. I was always white growing up until I came to the United States. Then I became a non-white, a Latino.¿ Another example of race as a social construction is when Sylvia Matthews describes her Jamaican mother. In Jamaica, the darker the skin the more racism is encountered. Her mother was light skinned and considered elite. Now she is considered to be a black American. She went from the dominant to the minority group. Terkel made this an interesting read because he included many of the voices that used metaphors to describe racism. Peggy Terry referred to the social stratification between blacks and Jews thusly: ¿The way I see it¿there has to be a top crust and a bottom crust in our society.¿ Frank Lumpkin expressed how racial tensions increase as the economy slows, by saying, ¿If the lion and t

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2010

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