Breaking the Code of Good Intentions: Everyday Forms of Whiteness examines why most white people in the U.S. believe we have achieved racial equality though social and economic indicators suggest otherwise. The book draws on research conducted between 1998-2000 at a college within the largest urban public university in the nation, exploring white students' perceptions about identity, privilege, democracy, and intergroup relations. The book explores mechanisms that reinforce the adherence to dominant narratives (thereby functioning to maintain and reproduce racialized structures of inequality) and identifies 'cracks in the wall of whiteness,' circumstances that can foster understanding about systemic and racialized patterns of inequality. The author illuminates the connection between everyday thinking and the policies and programs that structure society. Framed within an analysis of economic and political transitions that have occurred within the United States and globally in the second half of the twentieth century, the author examines the shift in public opinion from a presumption of collective responsibility for the common good and toward a belief in the social survival of the fittest and explores the extent to which these transitions led to the acute sense of white victimization that is portrayed by the media. Concluding with recommendations for academia and society at large, this book asserts that the time is overdue for the dismantling of narratives that align ordinary whites with global elites and that the very future of humanity depends on challenging this long-time pattern.
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Melanie E. L. Bush is assistant professor in the department of Sociology and Anthropology at Adelphi University. She has published numerous articles in scholarly journals and presented at a range of national conferences particularly in the fields of sociology and anthropology. Active for three decades in community struggles and academic projects for full employment, education, women's rights, against racism and for peace and justice, in 2003 she was a prize winner of the Praxis Award, given by the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists for outstanding achievement in translating knowledge into action in addressing contemporary social problems.Review:
Dr. Bush has done a unique study that breaks new ground in the field of Whiteness Studies, yielding provocative as well as positive results. Her focus on the views of youth—in this case white students—suggests the future of U.S. racism and struggles to eliminate it. As revealed in almost a thousand interviews and other discussions with students, and Dr. Bush's analysis of them, what she calls 'cracks' exist in the wall of whiteness that may help liberate our entire society. She shows us that along with predictably racist assumptions of responsibility for inequality, for example, young people have strong beliefs in the ideal of democracy as well as an often realistic grasp of existing injustices. Dr. Bush's worldview is both scholarly and activist, as when she concludes that 'Individuals concerned with the future of our society have a chance to make a difference by providing alternative ways to interpret . . . events that are shaping people's lives today and to bring to light the many ways that everyday forms and extraordinary forms of challenge can be successful.' (Dr. Martinez, Elizabeth)
The field of whiteness studies is a complex domain laden with mines and misunderstandings. Melanie Bush has successfully traversed that field, bringing staightforward clarity and profound insight to the domain. Breaking the Code of Good Intentions provides rigorous empirical data, thick contextualization, and compelling interpretation to those who are interested in whiteness as a powerful cultural force. This book is necessary reading not only for those invested in whiteness studies but also for those attempting to understand the mutating nature of racism in the twenty-first century. Bush constructs a piece de resistance in the attempt to make sense of contemporary American culture. (Joe Kincheloe)
Breaking the Code of Good Intentions is a welcome addition to the new genre of whiteness studies that reverse the racial lens and make 'whiteness' the focal point of research and analysis. It is a notable departure from the scores of redundant surveys that merely document the existence and prevalence of racial stereotypes and beliefs. Through in-depth interviews with students at a racially diverse college, Melanie Bush probes deeper layers of cognition and feeling, replete as they are with ambiguity and contradiction. Despite their repudiation of racist stereotypes, and despite positive experiences across racial lines, these students still struggle with transcending whiteness. How could it be otherwise, in a society still driven by race? (Steinberg, Stephen)
U.S. society and higher education, as recent indicators show, has a long way to go in accepting and appreciating racial and ethnic diversity and equality. Many decades ago, W.E.B. Du Bois was critical that Blacks and other people of color were merely tolerated, rather than accepted fully in academic institutions and all sectors of society. This book provides a venue for understanding contemporary problems, and possibilities, related to race and race relations. Dr. Melanie Bush’s book will be considered one of the most important works highlighting possibilities for effective and positive change. (Jennings, James)
Breaking the Code of Good Intentions effectively deconstructs white racial identities, showing them to be fraught with uncertainty and contradiction, and explaining the peculiar perception of beleagueredness that many whites experience today. Since whites can no longer be unabashedly prejudiced and openly discriminatory, Bush suggests, they have become abashedly prejudiced and confused about what discrimination is. Showing how race is the 'default' explanation for the real pressures whites experience in today's America, and showing as well how whites both accept and resist pressures toward 'normal' racism, Bush probes the anxiety and confusion that shapes contemporary whiteness. This book goes mad deep into the inner workings of white racial identity. Highly recommended! (Winant, Howard)
In the rapidly growing field of studies interrogating the construction of whiteness, relatively few are grounded in ethnographic methods examining the everyday experiences of people in real time. Dr. Melanie Bush's Breaking the Code of Good Intentions: Everyday Forms of Whiteness brilliantly explores the everyday dimensions of how white Americans maintain and reproduce the inequalities of race through common interaction. Well-written and effectively argued, this study provides critical new insights and makes an important contribution to the social science literature about race. (Leith Mullings)
In this informative, exciting, and well-theorized book, social scientist Melanie Bush probes deeply into understandings and rationalizations about racial and class matters held by many students at America's largest urban public university, the City University of New York (CUNY). (Feagin, Joe)
highly recommended text for any student, scholar, or community activist with an interest in the salient issues of race, whiteness, and social justice. (Journal Of Educational Thought)
Breaking the Code of Good Intentions: Everyday Forms of Whiteness performs the important work of demonstrating the multiple ways in which people designated as "white" can- and often do- act upon ideas and attitudes that align them with the racist power relations that are essential to continuing capitalist hegemony, and hence make them complicit in their own oppression and exploitation. . . . Readers of Science and Society who are engaged in bringing critical consciousness to working-class students in institutions of higher education will especially benefit from Bush's careful anaylsis of what is on our students' minds-and perhaps our own as well. (Science And Society)
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