Pub. Date:
University of California Press
Whispers on the Color Line: Rumor and Race in America / Edition 1

Whispers on the Color Line: Rumor and Race in America / Edition 1

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520228559
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 05/18/2004
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 270
Sales rank: 873,257
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Gary Alan Fine is Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University. Among his books are Kitchens: The Culture of Restaurant Work (California, 1994), Difficult Reputations (2000), and Manufacturing Tales: Sex and Money in Contemporary Legends (1992). Patricia A. Turner is Vice-Provost of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of African American and African Studies at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of I Heard It Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African American Culture (California, 1993) and Ceramic Uncles and Celluloid Mammies: Black Images and Their Influence on Culture (1994).

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?

Table of Contents

1. Rumor in the Life of America: Riots and Race
2. How Rumor Works
3. Mercantile Rumor in Black and White
4. The Enemy in Washington
5. The Wages of Sin: Stories of Sex and Immorality
6. On the Road Again: Rumors of Crime and Confrontation
7. Cries and Whispers: Race and False Accusations
8. Coming Clean

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