You are on page 1of 4

UFPPC ( Digging Deeper CXXIX: July 26, 2010, 7:00 p.m.

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, Race Course: Against White Supremacy
(Chicago: Third World Press, February 2009).

[Thesis. Two famous radical activists involved with JOIN, created by former
express their understanding of racism : SDS workers, while in her third year in
"white supremacy still reigns" (134).] law school at the U. of Chicago (37-38).
This led to attendance of a national SDS
Publisher's Statement (Haki R. meeting in Berkeley in 1966 (38-39).
Madhubuti). Media manipulation has Beginnings of feminism (39). As a
produced a "collective amnesia" in many National Lawyers Guild organizers, she
Americans about the struggle against worked with Anne and Carl Braden in
injustice in the 1960s; this book was Appalachia (39-40).
conceived in early 2007 and completed
in April 2008 but its publication was Born into War. "In America . . . [r]ace is
postponed until after Obama's election inescapable. . . . the delusion of white
(x; ix-xii). supremacy is both entrenched and
precarious" (44). World War II's outcome
Introduction. This book is an attempt empowered ideas about human rights
to express the authors' "imperfect and dignity (45-50). The violent legacy
understanding of racism and the of racism in the U.S.: slavery, lynching
structure of white supremacy," written at (50-52).
the behest of neighbors who run the
Third World Press (xv; xiii-xvii). The Modern Slave Ship (Bernardine
Dohrn). Raising Chesa Boudin while his
Freedom Now! (Bill Ayers). Eldest son parents were in prison offered a window
Zayd Osceola, 5, asks "What are you into gender/race/class in U.S. society (54-
going to do about it?" after explanation 58). Dohrn's experience serving seven
of hateful graffiti in bus (2-3). Each of us months for refusing to give a sample of
could write a book on racism (3-5). Ex- her handwriting (58-60). Since 1963, the
SNCC activist Alex Witherspoon, Ayers's number of prisoners in the U.S. has risen
first mentor in racism while they worked from 200,000 to 2,200,000; half are
together as organizers in the Lakeview African American (60). "The prison
section of Cleveland, regarded "Black is... industry is stamped with race: a modern
an' Black ain't" the most profound manifestation of white supremacy" (61;
sentence in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man 60-63). Vietnam veteran Jon Burge
(7; 5-11). Also Dorothea Hill, a woman of joined the Chicago Police Dept. and was
strength though to conventional eyes she involved with a group of other white
"was a vast collection of ills" (13; 12-15). police officers in the torture of 125 black
When the Black Power movement men from Area Two (the South Side) over
challenged whites' leadership, Ayers's a twenty year period (63-65 [N.B. Burge
commitment "deepened" (16; 16-18). was finally convicted in June 2010 after a
legal struggle of more than 20 years]).
Awake! (Bernardine Dohrn). Dohrn's
inner awareness of racism was born from "Emancipate Yourselves from Mental
images of Little Rock and of the Slavery" (Bill Ayers). Jail time for anti-
murdered Emmett Till (20-23). As a law draft activity in 1965 led to Ayers's first
student, she worked as a legal aide with teaching job in the Children's Community
Martin Luther King Jr. in Chicago in the in Ann Arbor, MI (68-69). The inspiration
summer of 1965 (23-36). She got of the civil-rights era Freedom Schools
Curriculum, based on dialogue (70-72). 20). "During U.S.-led wars like Viet Nam
MadTV's "Nice White Lady" satire [on and Iraq, every American is implicated in
YouTube] "lasts just over three minutes, acts of violence" (119).
but somehow packs it all in (74; 74-75).
Ayers's philosophy of education is based Fight Back. Remarks on Weather
on a "reversal of power and privilege" actions (122-28). Reflections on the
(76). airbrushing and commodification of the
Sixties (128-30).
The Anchor of Race. From its origins,
American history is anchored in the Questionnaire. Sixteen questions on
ideology of white supremacy (78-82). terrorism (131).
"[T]he U.S., in spite of its happy rhetoric,
remains fundamentally dedicated to Affirmative Action: For Whites Only.
structures, institutions, and ideologies The denial of whites that their well-being
that construct and enforce white is linked to exploitation of the non-white
domination" (82). is a systemic element of the structure of
white supremacy (134). To opponents of
John Brown's Seminar. The history of affirmative action: "affirmative action
John Brown (1800-1859) (who with has effectively served the ideology of
Frederick Douglass features in an white supremacy and the practice of
unattributed print on the cover) (84-91). privilege from the start" (135; 135-38).
Public housing projects in Chicago (139-
The Lengthening Legacy. That race 42). Because they make "discriminatory
has a scientific basis is now "thoroughly purpose" the operative concept, the
discredited," but it is a social reality (94). Supreme Court has blunted the
The foundation of racism is "exploitation effectiveness of anti-discrimination laws
and profit" and its resistance requires (142-43).
"resisting and undermining the core
inequality and unjust structures" (97; 95- Colorblind. Ruminations on claims to
97). Racism is "a central and permanent colorblindness as a comforting ruse of
theme coloring every other [subplot in whites (146-56).
the U.S. story]" (99). White superiority
"can be found at the heart of our Two Systems of Youth Justice
language" (100; 100-03). White (Bernardine Dohrn). Serving
supremacy is dynamic (103-04). White Thanksgiving dinner to prisoners (158-
evasiveness is part of the system (104- 59). The 1989 Central Park jogger case,
05). Statistics concerning wealth (105- in which five black teenagers were
06). wrongly convicted (the true rapist
confessed in 2002) (159-63). Lynching
From Activism to Resistance. Ayers as torture (163-64). After the Central
and Dohrn first met in June 1967 (108). Park case, John DiIulio, James Q. Wilson,
The grounds of their activism (108-10). and James Fox played up the danger
The murders of their friend Fred from youth in race-coded language (164-
Hampton of the Black Panther Party in 67). Imprisonment skyrocketed (167-69).
Chicago on Dec. 4, 1969, caused their In fact, lawbreaking is the norm for
radicalization (110-15). young males but whites are mostly
excused, so this movement served white
Scenes from an Imagined supremacy (169-71). Appalling
Interrogation. A refusal to disavow conditions for incarcerated children (171-
violence, which "isn't a faith but a 73). The 2006 Jena 6 case provoked a
fact" . . . isn't an ideology (117; 119; 117- broad mobilization against racism (174-
75). Fifteen instances of recent progress Days, The Good Preschool Teacher, On
in juvenile justice (176-78). Challenges the Side of the Child, and To Teach.
for the future (178). Bernardine Dohrn was a national
leader of SDS and the Weather
School and Society (Bill Ayers). Underground, and was on the FBI's 10
Brown v. Board of Education (180-82). Most Wanted list for more than a decade.
The legacy of the eugenics movement She is now Director of the Children and
infects progressive educational reforms Family Justice Center and Clinical
(182-86). The testing movement inherits Associate Professor at Northwestern
this (186-90). The effect of market University School of Law. She is author
fundamentalism in education is to or co-editor of A Century of Juvenile
reinforce white supremacy and should be Justice and Resisting Zero Tolerance.
resisted (190-95). The goal of education
should be liberation, not personal [Additional information. William
"betterment" (195-98). The paradox of Charles "Bill" Ayers as born on Dec.
education: teaching can be colonial or 26, 1944, and grew up in Glen Ellyn, IL, a
liberating (198-202). The Highlander suburb of Chicago, the son of the former
School in Tennessee (202-06). chairman of Commonwealth Edison.
After graduating from prep school (Lake
Trudge toward Freedom, Crawl Forest Academy) he earned a degree in
toward Love. American Studies at the University of
Ayers and Dohrn accept the immensity of Michigan in 1968, where he became
the task, affirm faith in King's vision of a politically active in 1965. In June 1969
moral universe, and urge us to "work for he was elected "educational secretary" of
justice" (216; 208-17). SDS; he was part of the Weatherman
faction of SDS, which became an
Note: November 2008. The campaign independent group in late 1969. His
is discussed but Obama's election is girlfriend, Diana Oughton, three years
never mentioned; in any case, the older than Ayers, was killed with two
struggle for "democracy and others in an explosion on Mar. 6, 1970, in
egalitarianism," "human rights," "a new a Greenwich Village townhouse, where a
society," "ways to live sustainably," and collective "spiraled into madness" (Mark
authenticity, and the struggle against Rudd, Underground [2009], p. 197)
"addiction to consumption and apparently while making a bomb
development and military power," must intended for a dance at Fort Dix, NJ.
go on (225; 219-26). Ayers lived underground, engaged in
violent, but in his view not terrorist,
An Eclectic Reader. A list of 220 books struggle against the state; during this
that is "[n]either a bibliography or a page time he and Bernardine Dohrn married.
of references" (227; 227-41). Charges against him were dropped due
to police illegality. Ayers earned an
Acknowledgments. Children, friends, M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from
extended family, publisher. Bank Street College (1984) in Manhattan
and an M.Ed. and an Ed.D. from Columbia
Index. 9 pp. University (1987). In 1995 he called
himself "a radical, Leftist, small 'c'
About the Authors. Bill Ayers is communist." His civic work in Chicago
Distinguished Professor of Education and won him a Citizen of the Year award in
Senior University Scholar at the 1997 and he has been called a
University of Illinois at Chicago and is the "responsible citizen" (William C. Ibershof,
author of A Kind and Just Parent, Fugitive Weather Underground federal
prosecutor) and even "model citizen" is the point of entry for many
(Thomas Frank). — Bernardine Dohrn discussions, but Ayers and Dohrn merely
was born on Jan. 12, 1942, in Milwaukee, summarize their radical past or allude to
and grew up in Whitefish Bay to a Jewish it here and there (xiv-xv; 59, 111-15;
father and a Christian Scientist mother. 122-30). Personal remarks are stilted
She attended Miami University in Oxford, and guarded, and political discussions
OH, and then transferred to the are formulaic. Neither Ayers nor Dohrn
University of Chicago, where she is a gifted writer or has a distinctive
graduated with an honors degree in voice. — At the intellectual level, Race
Political Science in 1963. In 1967 she Course suffers from an inconsistency; it
earned a J.D. from the Univ. of Chicago wavers between the idea that race is a
Law School. After moving to New York permanent part of American history and
City she joined became a leader of the that the idea a world without racism is
Revolutionary Youth Movement, a wing of possible. Incredibly, especially given
SDS, and helped write the anti- both the book's thesis and the role that
imperialist, communist manifesto in June Bill Ayers played in the 2008 campaign,
18, 1969, that led to the formation of they never mention the election of
Weatherman. She and her husband Bill Barack Obama as the first black
Ayers lived underground as Christine American president, even in the section
Louise Douglas and Anthony J. Lee until entitled "Note: November, 2008." —
1980, when they turned themselves in to There are no notes or index, only a list of
authorities. Dohrn served several 220 titles they call a "reader." Race
months for refusing to testify against an Course is sloppily copyedited and lacks
ex-Weatherman in an armed robbery organization both in its sections and as a
case. In 1984 she worked for the whole. The lack of references and notes
Chicago law firm Sidley Austin, but has on sources weakens its effect. The
never been admitted to the bar in any authors give no account of the social
state. She began teaching at theory that underlies their views. This is
Northwestern University School of Law in somewhat surprising, because on the one
1991. She has also taught at Vrije hand both are academics, and on the
Universiteit in Amsterdam (2002). Her other the Weatherman organization was
legal work has focused on Chicago's explicitly Marxist, as well as regrettable,
juvenile court system.] because as a result the book's
propositions will seem to many readers
[Critique. Race Course is at once a to be mere opinions. However, the
memoir, essay, tract, polemic, and authors' lifelong commitment to social
analysis. But this dispersion makes for a justice is impressive, and the material
weak volume that never achieves its they present is often interesting and
sought-for equilibrium between the important.]
personal and the political. The personal