Whispers on the Color Line: Rumor and Race in America

Whispers on the Color Line: Rumor and Race in America

by Gary Alan Fine, Patricia A. Turner
     
 


Legends are arguably the most common narrative form of folklore in American society. From sex acts to business transactions, from fashion to food, from heroes to heroin, rumors and legends take on every charged topic. Children circulate texts about toys and candy; teenagers share stories about sex, drugs, and rock and roll; young professionals commiserate over the… See more details below

Overview


Legends are arguably the most common narrative form of folklore in American society. From sex acts to business transactions, from fashion to food, from heroes to heroin, rumors and legends take on every charged topic. Children circulate texts about toys and candy; teenagers share stories about sex, drugs, and rock and roll; young professionals commiserate over the hazards of the work world. These stories address aspects of life about which we receive mixed or ambiguous messages. Given that matters relevant to race remain confused and divisive in many corridors of American society, it is not surprising that rumors and legends that reflect racial misunderstanding and mistrust frequently circulate. Whispers on the Color Line focuses on a wide array of tales told in black and white communities across America. Topics run the gamut from alleged governmental conspiracies, possible food tampering, gang violence, and the sex lives of celebrities. Such beliefs travel by word of mouth, in print, and increasingly over the Internet. In many instances these stories reflect the tenacious level of racial misunderstanding that continues to vex efforts to foster racial harmony, creating separate racialized pools of knowledge.

The authors have spent over twenty years collecting and analyzing rumors and contemporary legends--from the ever-durable Kentucky Fried Rat cycle to persistent beliefs about athletic footwear manufacturers and their support for white supremacist regimes. These implausible stories serve many purposes: they assuage anxieties, entertain friends, increase our sense of control--all without directly proclaiming our own attitudes. Fine and Turner consider how these tales reflect attitudes that blacks and whites have both about each other and about the world they face. In an engaging and penetrating narrative, they brilliantly demonstrate how--by transforming unacceptable impulses into a narrative that is claimed to have actually happened--we are able to express the inexpressible.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Urban legends are a large part of today's society. Nearly everyone has heard the myths about why Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name or who owns Snapple or the woman who was saved from attack by a gas station attendant. But how do urban legends affect how different races see each other, and how do these legends change according to which ethnic group is being targeted? In this fascinating book, Fine (African American studies, Univ. of California, Davis; I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African American Culture) and Turner (sociology, Northwestern Univ.; Kitchens: The Culture of Restaurant Work) explore not only the basis of many of these urban legends but also how they shape opinions. They discuss different kinds of rumors and how these rumors are shared within the community. They also discuss how to cope with rumors and to stop them in their tracks. With a fairly extensive notes section, this is an important and useful book that should find a home in every library. Danna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This book looks beyond the question of factual veracity and challenges readers to examine the underlying racial attitudes revealed by particular kinds of alleged actions and behaviors. Focus is on rumors spread by Caucasian and African-American populations about one another throughout American history. At heart a scholarly work, the first two chapters are devoted to describing structures used to analyze the assumed beliefs in the rest of the book. However, there are plenty of juicy stories inside. A number of the rumors cited as being typically spread only in black communities may sound incredible to whites, and vice versa. In providing historical and sociological background, the authors show how people who view themselves as reasonable can still accept outrageous assertions as fact. It is likely that there will be readers who vehemently disagree with at least some of the authors' analysis. Nevertheless, this provocative work excels at challenging readers to think about and hopefully better understand people on the other side of the color line. Five sensible and practical steps that every individual should take in order to bring about racial healing end the book on a positive and constructive note. This is a must-read for students and teachers with a scholarly interest in race relations. Even for casual readers, Whispers supplies a starting point for discussions.-Sheila Shoup, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780520209886
Publisher:
University of California Press
Publication date:
10/01/2001
Pages:
270
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.88(d)

Read an Excerpt

Does Kentucky Fried Chicken serve its African American customers Kentucky Fried Rat?

Are the owners of the beverage company, Snapple, members of the Ku Klux Klan? * Is Liz Claiborne a white supremacist?

Was there a conspiracy around the untimely death of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown? *

Was O. J. Simpson framed?

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