"Traveling through the American heartland, a physician deconstructs how right-wing policies have fatal consequences, even for the voters they purport to help. Metzl paints a blistering portrait of a subculture so in thrall to racist ideology that they willingly invite raising gun suicides, poor healthcare, and falling life expectancies."Esquire
"Groundbreaking.... Metzl methodically and adeptly marshals statistical evidence that policies promising to bolster white Americans' status have instead made life 'sicker, harder, and shorter' for all."Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Remarkable...Through field interviews, research and public-health data, Metzl shows that whites are harming themselves along with everyone else, and in drastic ways...A weighty but smooth read, devoid of polemics or jargon."Minneapolis Star Tribune
"A provocative, instructive contribution to the literature of public health as well as of contemporary politics."Kirkus Reviews
"Here is the diagnosis, America, and it's not reassuring: failing health, falling graduation rates, guns everywhere. Our fantasies are driving us to an early grave, and Jonathan M. Metzl is lucid and careful and mercifully clinical in telling us exactly how this public health disaster came to be. Read it today: there's still time before the autopsy."Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter With Kansas? and Listen, Liberal
"Dying of Whiteness unveils how the very policies marketed to white people as 'making America great again' end up harming the well-being of whites as a demographic group. This is must reading for anyone interested in understanding the current racial landscape of the United States."Jelani Cobb, Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia Journalism School
"Copious data have long shown us the deadly effects of racist health policies on African Americans. But in Dying of
Whiteness, Jonathan M. Metzl powerfully shows us this coin's reverse: the deadly effects on white populations of contemporary policies promulgated by vengeful politicians to 'restore' an imaginary white superiority, and embraced by resentful, marginalized whites. Dying of Whiteness illuminates the dual devastation wrought by policies that limit access to care for the poor of every race."Harriet A. Washington, author of Medical Apartheid
"In his pathbreaking and provocative book, Jonathan
M. Metzl draws on his dual acuity as physician and social scientist to help make sense of the urgent issue of our time: how individuals not only act against their self-interests, but also support policies that contribute to their own early demise. A threadbare social safety net, further unraveled by virulent racism, has given way to an ailing body politic. Empathetic and poignant, this vital work exposes how an investment in whiteness works to the deficit of us all."Alondra Nelson, Columbia University and Social Science Research Council
"In this paradigm-shifting tour de force, Jonathan M. Metzl brilliantly illuminates the shocking ways that white supremacy, through backlash governance, kills white people too. Moving deftly between mountains of data and compelling storytelling, Dying of
Whiteness makes a vital contribution to our national conversation about racism and its discontents. Metzl uncovers the contemporary paradox of whiteness: a struggle to preserve white privilege in the midst of the declining value of whiteness. This is a must-read if you want to understand how race and the color line operate in twenty-first-century America."Dorian Warren, president, Community Change, and co-chair, Economic Security Project
"Dying of Whiteness
brilliantly demonstrates the tremendous impediment that white racism and backlash politics pose to our society's wellbeing, at a time when many white
Americans quite literally would rather die than support policies they see as benefiting people of color. Jonathan M. Metzl issues an urgently needed call to acknowledge the deadly toll of investing in whiteness-and to work collectively toward a just society that would be healthier for everyone."Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body
"As a progressive Missouri state legislator, I
applaud Jonathan M. Metzl's dive into policies and agendas which are destructive to those most in need. He is correct in that racial resentment is the primary reason Medicaid expansion was not allowed to be debated on the
House floor the past eight years. He is also correct in exposing racism as a primary reason why my home state of Missouri has loosened gun restrictions even though suicides, accidental, and domestic shootings have skyrocketed in every zip code-including in predominantly white areas. Racial overtones also color healthcare and gun legislation debates in the Capitol, as well as many lobbying efforts. Dying of Whiteness boldly exposes the devastating consequences of these politics for everyone, and calls on us to push back against racial resentment for the benefit of all."Hon. Stacey Newman, Missouri House of Representatives, 2010-2018
"Policy makers, scholars, and the public at large need to read Jonathan M.
Metzl's Dying of Whiteness. He forcefully but with empathy demonstrates how poor and working class whites are literally killing themselves by supporting policies on guns, health care, and taxes framed as defending white authority but which, in truth, benefit the white elite."Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, James B. Duke Professor of Sociology, Duke University
"Jonathan M. Metzl goes to Missouri, Tennessee, and Kansas to understand why people support gun, health, and school policies they will suffer from. An informative snapshot of how 'the other half' live and die."Dr. Alfredo Morabia, editor-in-chief, American Journal of Public Health
Nationalism, meet mortality: A social scientist and psychiatrist examines the interplay of racial identity and health.
Metzl (Center for Medicine, Health, and Society/Vanderbilt Univ.; The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease, 2010, etc.) identifies several public health trends related to white identity politics and the left-behind sentiments of its adherents. One epidemiological chain goes like this: Whites without opportunity in the hinterlands drop out of high school at ever higher rates. According to studies by the author and others, "failure to attain a high school diploma correlated with nine years of life lost, in conjunction with rising rates of smoking, illnesses such as diabetes, and missed doctor visits." Want to guarantee a disaffected white rural populace? Slash the education budget, as former Kansas governor and Trump appointee Sam Brownback did. Similarly, Metzl lucidly examines rising rates of suicide by gun, noting that from 2009 to 2015, "non-Hispanic white men accounted for nearly 80 percent of all gun suicides in the United States, despite representing less than 35 percent of the total population." Although gun suicide is a clear threat to the public health, "whiteness" includes adherence to views that privilege the Second Amendment at the expense of any public good. In other words, although everyone knows there's a problem, the problem is variously attributed to nonwhite criminality or mental illness, not the easy availability of guns and lack of background screening. Furthermore, writes the author, the numbers point to the fact that "non-Hispanic white, male, self-identified conservative Republicans over the age of thirty-five overwhelmingly owned and carried the most guns in the country." Opposition to the Affordable Care Act has hinged on the notion that the undeserving (read: nonwhites) are free riders on a system that the government has no business being involved in. And so forth. While Metzl notes that white identity politics has enjoyed great successes, he concludes that they come at significant cost and "heighten the calculus of risk."
Long on description, shorter on prescription; still, a provocative, instructive contribution to the literature of public health as well as of contemporary politics.