This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, Race Course: Against White Supremacy (Chicago: Third World Press, February 2009). [Thesis. Two famous radical activists express their understanding of racism : "white supremacy still reigns" (134).] Publisher's Statement (Haki R. Madhubuti). Media manipulation has produced a "collective amnesia" in many Americans about the struggle against injustice in the 1960s; this book was conceived in early 2007 and completed in April 2008 but its publication was postponed until after Obama's election (x; ix-xii). Introduction. This book is an attempt to express the authors' "imperfect understanding of racism and the structure of white supremacy," written at the behest of neighbors who run the Third World Press (xv; xiii-xvii). Freedom Now! (Bill Ayers). Eldest son Zayd Osceola, 5, asks "What are you going to do about it?" after explanation of hateful graffiti in bus (2-3). Each of us could write a book on racism (3-5). ExSNCC activist Alex Witherspoon, Ayers's first mentor in racism while they worked together as organizers in the Lakeview section of Cleveland, regarded "Black is... an' Black ain't" the most profound sentence in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (7; 5-11). Also Dorothea Hill, a woman of strength though to conventional eyes she "was a vast collection of ills" (13; 12-15). When the Black Power movement challenged whites' leadership, Ayers's commitment "deepened" (16; 16-18). Awake! (Bernardine Dohrn). Dohrn's inner awareness of racism was born from images of Little Rock and of the murdered Emmett Till (20-23). As a law student, she worked as a legal aide with Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago in the summer of 1965 (23-36). She got involved with JOIN, created by former SDS workers, while in her third year in law school at the U. of Chicago (37-38). This led to attendance of a national SDS meeting in Berkeley in 1966 (38-39). Beginnings of feminism (39). As a National Lawyers Guild organizers, she worked with Anne and Carl Braden in Appalachia (39-40). Born into War. "In America . . . [r]ace is inescapable. . . . the delusion of white supremacy is both entrenched and precarious" (44). World War II's outcome empowered ideas about human rights and dignity (45-50). The violent legacy of racism in the U.S.: slavery, lynching (50-52). The Modern Slave Ship (Bernardine Dohrn). Raising Chesa Boudin while his parents were in prison offered a window into gender/race/class in U.S. society (5458). Dohrn's experience serving seven months for refusing to give a sample of her handwriting (58-60). Since 1963, the number of prisoners in the U.S. has risen from 200,000 to 2,200,000; half are African American (60). "The prison industry is stamped with race: a modern manifestation of white supremacy" (61; 60-63). Vietnam veteran Jon Burge joined the Chicago Police Dept. and was involved with a group of other white police officers in the torture of 125 black men from Area Two (the South Side) over a twenty year period (63-65 [N.B. Burge was finally convicted in June 2010 after a legal struggle of more than 20 years]). "Emancipate Yourselves from Mental Slavery" (Bill Ayers). Jail time for antidraft activity in 1965 led to Ayers's first teaching job in the Children's Community in Ann Arbor, MI (68-69). The inspiration of the civil-rights era Freedom Schools
Curriculum, based on dialogue (70-72). MadTV's "Nice White Lady" satire [on YouTube] "lasts just over three minutes, but somehow packs it all in (74; 74-75). Ayers's philosophy of education is based on a "reversal of power and privilege" (76). The Anchor of Race. From its origins, American history is anchored in the ideology of white supremacy (78-82). "[T]he U.S., in spite of its happy rhetoric, remains fundamentally dedicated to structures, institutions, and ideologies that construct and enforce white domination" (82). John Brown's Seminar. The history of John Brown (1800-1859) (who with Frederick Douglass features in an unattributed print on the cover) (84-91). The Lengthening Legacy. That race has a scientific basis is now "thoroughly discredited," but it is a social reality (94). The foundation of racism is "exploitation and profit" and its resistance requires "resisting and undermining the core inequality and unjust structures" (97; 9597). Racism is "a central and permanent theme coloring every other [subplot in the U.S. story]" (99). White superiority "can be found at the heart of our language" (100; 100-03). White supremacy is dynamic (103-04). White evasiveness is part of the system (10405). Statistics concerning wealth (10506). From Activism to Resistance. Ayers and Dohrn first met in June 1967 (108). The grounds of their activism (108-10). The murders of their friend Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party in Chicago on Dec. 4, 1969, caused their radicalization (110-15). Scenes from an Imagined Interrogation. A refusal to disavow violence, which "isn't a faith but a fact" . . . isn't an ideology (117; 119; 117-
20). "During U.S.-led wars like Viet Nam and Iraq, every American is implicated in acts of violence" (119). Fight Back. Remarks on Weather actions (122-28). Reflections on the airbrushing and commodification of the Sixties (128-30). Questionnaire. Sixteen questions on terrorism (131). Affirmative Action: For Whites Only. The denial of whites that their well-being is linked to exploitation of the non-white is a systemic element of the structure of white supremacy (134). To opponents of affirmative action: "affirmative action has effectively served the ideology of white supremacy and the practice of privilege from the start" (135; 135-38). Public housing projects in Chicago (13942). Because they make "discriminatory purpose" the operative concept, the Supreme Court has blunted the effectiveness of anti-discrimination laws (142-43). Colorblind. Ruminations on claims to colorblindness as a comforting ruse of whites (146-56). Two Systems of Youth Justice (Bernardine Dohrn). Serving Thanksgiving dinner to prisoners (15859). The 1989 Central Park jogger case, in which five black teenagers were wrongly convicted (the true rapist confessed in 2002) (159-63). Lynching as torture (163-64). After the Central Park case, John DiIulio, James Q. Wilson, and James Fox played up the danger from youth in race-coded language (16467). Imprisonment skyrocketed (167-69). In fact, lawbreaking is the norm for young males but whites are mostly excused, so this movement served white supremacy (169-71). Appalling conditions for incarcerated children (17173). The 2006 Jena 6 case provoked a broad mobilization against racism (174-
75). Fifteen instances of recent progress in juvenile justice (176-78). Challenges for the future (178). School and Society (Bill Ayers). Brown v. Board of Education (180-82). The legacy of the eugenics movement infects progressive educational reforms (182-86). The testing movement inherits this (186-90). The effect of market fundamentalism in education is to reinforce white supremacy and should be resisted (190-95). The goal of education should be liberation, not personal "betterment" (195-98). The paradox of education: teaching can be colonial or liberating (198-202). The Highlander School in Tennessee (202-06). Trudge toward Freedom, Crawl toward Love. Ayers and Dohrn accept the immensity of the task, affirm faith in King's vision of a moral universe, and urge us to "work for justice" (216; 208-17). Note: November 2008. The campaign is discussed but Obama's election is never mentioned; in any case, the struggle for "democracy and egalitarianism," "human rights," "a new society," "ways to live sustainably," and authenticity, and the struggle against "addiction to consumption and development and military power," must go on (225; 219-26). An Eclectic Reader. A list of 220 books that is "[n]either a bibliography or a page of references" (227; 227-41). Acknowledgments. Children, friends, extended family, publisher. Index. 9 pp. About the Authors. Bill Ayers is Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago and is the author of A Kind and Just Parent, Fugitive
Days, The Good Preschool Teacher, On the Side of the Child, and To Teach. Bernardine Dohrn was a national leader of SDS and the Weather Underground, and was on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list for more than a decade. She is now Director of the Children and Family Justice Center and Clinical Associate Professor at Northwestern University School of Law. She is author or co-editor of A Century of Juvenile Justice and Resisting Zero Tolerance. [Additional information. William Charles "Bill" Ayers as born on Dec. 26, 1944, and grew up in Glen Ellyn, IL, a suburb of Chicago, the son of the former chairman of Commonwealth Edison. After graduating from prep school (Lake Forest Academy) he earned a degree in American Studies at the University of Michigan in 1968, where he became politically active in 1965. In June 1969 he was elected "educational secretary" of SDS; he was part of the Weatherman faction of SDS, which became an independent group in late 1969. His girlfriend, Diana Oughton, three years older than Ayers, was killed with two others in an explosion on Mar. 6, 1970, in a Greenwich Village townhouse, where a collective "spiraled into madness" (Mark Rudd, Underground , p. 197) apparently while making a bomb intended for a dance at Fort Dix, NJ. Ayers lived underground, engaged in violent, but in his view not terrorist, struggle against the state; during this time he and Bernardine Dohrn married. Charges against him were dropped due to police illegality. Ayers earned an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College (1984) in Manhattan and an M.Ed. and an Ed.D. from Columbia University (1987). In 1995 he called himself "a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist." His civic work in Chicago won him a Citizen of the Year award in 1997 and he has been called a "responsible citizen" (William C. Ibershof, Weather Underground federal
prosecutor) and even "model citizen" (Thomas Frank). — Bernardine Dohrn was born on Jan. 12, 1942, in Milwaukee, and grew up in Whitefish Bay to a Jewish father and a Christian Scientist mother. She attended Miami University in Oxford, OH, and then transferred to the University of Chicago, where she graduated with an honors degree in Political Science in 1963. In 1967 she earned a J.D. from the Univ. of Chicago Law School. After moving to New York City she joined became a leader of the Revolutionary Youth Movement, a wing of SDS, and helped write the antiimperialist, communist manifesto in June 18, 1969, that led to the formation of Weatherman. She and her husband Bill Ayers lived underground as Christine Louise Douglas and Anthony J. Lee until 1980, when they turned themselves in to authorities. Dohrn served several months for refusing to testify against an ex-Weatherman in an armed robbery case. In 1984 she worked for the Chicago law firm Sidley Austin, but has never been admitted to the bar in any state. She began teaching at Northwestern University School of Law in 1991. She has also taught at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam (2002). Her legal work has focused on Chicago's juvenile court system.] [Critique. Race Course is at once a memoir, essay, tract, polemic, and analysis. But this dispersion makes for a weak volume that never achieves its sought-for equilibrium between the personal and the political. The personal
is the point of entry for many discussions, but Ayers and Dohrn merely summarize their radical past or allude to it here and there (xiv-xv; 59, 111-15; 122-30). Personal remarks are stilted and guarded, and political discussions are formulaic. Neither Ayers nor Dohrn is a gifted writer or has a distinctive voice. — At the intellectual level, Race Course suffers from an inconsistency; it wavers between the idea that race is a permanent part of American history and that the idea a world without racism is possible. Incredibly, especially given both the book's thesis and the role that Bill Ayers played in the 2008 campaign, they never mention the election of Barack Obama as the first black American president, even in the section entitled "Note: November, 2008." — There are no notes or index, only a list of 220 titles they call a "reader." Race Course is sloppily copyedited and lacks organization both in its sections and as a whole. The lack of references and notes on sources weakens its effect. The authors give no account of the social theory that underlies their views. This is somewhat surprising, because on the one hand both are academics, and on the other the Weatherman organization was explicitly Marxist, as well as regrettable, because as a result the book's propositions will seem to many readers to be mere opinions. However, the authors' lifelong commitment to social justice is impressive, and the material they present is often interesting and important.]