A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America

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9780394589756: A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America
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A Country of Strangers is a magnificent exploration of the psychological landscape where blacks and whites meet. To tell the story in human rather than abstract terms, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David K. Shipler bypasses both extremists and celebrities and takes us among ordinary Americans as they encounter one another across racial lines.

We learn how blacks and whites see each other, how they interpret each other's behavior, and how certain damaging images and assumptions seep into the actions of even the most unbiased. We penetrate into dimensions of stereotyping and discrimination that are usually invisible, and discover the unseen prejudices and privileges of white Americans, and what black Americans make of them.

We explore the competing impulses of integration and separation: the reference points by which the races navigate as they venture out and then withdraw; the biculturalism that many blacks perfect as they move back and forth between the white and black worlds, and the homesickness some blacks feel for the comfort of all-black separateness. There are portrayals of interracial families and their multiracial children--expert guides through the clashes created by racial blending in America. We see how whites and blacks each carry the burden of our history.

Black-white stereotypes are dissected: the physical bodies that we see, the mental qualities we imagine, the moral character we attribute to others and to ourselves, the violence we fear, the power we seek or are loath to relinquish.

The book makes clear that we have the ability to shape our racial landscape--to reconstruct, even if not perfectly, the texture of our relationships. There is an assessment of the complexity confronting blacks and whites alike as they struggle to recognize and define the racial motivations that may or may not be present in a thought, a word, a deed. The book does not prescribe, but it documents the silences that prevail, the listening that doesn't happen, the conversations that don't take place. It looks at relations between minorities, including blacks and Jews, and blacks and Koreans. It explores the human dimensions of affirmative action, the intricate contacts and misunderstandings across racial lines among coworkers and neighbors. It is unstinting in its criticism of our society's failure to come to grips with bigotry; but it is also, happily, crowded with black people and white people who struggle in their daily lives to do just that.

A remarkable book that will stimulate each of us to reexamine and better understand our own deepest attitudes in regard to race in America.

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Review:

David K. Shipler, a long-time reporter for the New York Times in the U.S. and overseas, calls A Country of Strangers "a journey along the color line," an attempt to trace "the landscape where blacks and whites find mutual encounters." As such, it's a journey (one that took five years) across America, listening and talking to black and white Americans about the conundrum of race. At once poignant and profound, A Country of Strangers begins with an examination of the tension between integration and segregation, continues through a look at the ways blacks and whites stereotype each other, and concludes with a section on choices--the ways in which we can reshape the racial landscape. Not everyone will agree with Shipler's optimistic conclusions, but we could do worse than to accompany him on this remarkable journey.

From the Back Cover:

"Of all the books I have read on race relations, none provides a more riveting and compelling account of interracial problems and interactions. Shipler skillfully interweaves data from interviews with ordinary black and white citizens and reaches a new landmark in the descriptive study of race in America."

--William Julius Wilson

"If you recognize the centrality of racial healing to our destiny as Americans, you must read this book. It will challenge you to look into yourself not as a white person or a black person but as a human being, and to recognize that it is there, in the pool of our common humanity, that we will find a reflection of a brighter future."

--Bill Bradley

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780679734543: A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America

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ISBN 10:  0679734546 ISBN 13:  9780679734543
Publisher: Vintage, 1998
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