Compiled by Stephen DeGiulio
Is America a great and free people, democratic and classless, or is it a fundamentally unethical society with an ethos of cruelty and violence towards the land and towards other countries and women, children, and other subgroups of the its own population? Is it a place where diverse ethnic groups mix, or is it strictly segregated? A country where men, women, and children have equal opportunity to live abundant lives, or a land where Anglo-male might makes right? Is it a place where all manner of intellectual, religious, and cultural choices are respected, or is it a conformist pressure cooker where dignity is unknown?
Rather than settle for simplifications, which are too often falsifications, we can suspend judgement and accumulate data till tentative patterns emerge. We can recognize, and teach our children, that work on important questions may take many years. The process of thinking, experimenting, analyzing, and putting parts together with informed intuition is what we work with when we need true answers--in art, history, science, etc. It won't help to arm ourselves with "right answers," but we can help them to develop the skills to tackle real and important tasks like dealing with racist and sexist behaviors, surviving cultural violence, and fighting the high-pressure marketing of intolerance and xenophobia. In the process, we can come to know ourselves and our culture better.
The bibliography contains some of my sources with brief comments. The following poem expresses well what the absence of violence and fear might feel like (it's the national anthem of India):
by Rabindranath Tagore
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening
thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
ACHEBE, Chinua (1988) Hopes and impediments: Selected essays. Doubleday: New York.
These essays are some of the most insightful analyses of race attitudes I have found anywhere, and beautifully written, too. Achebe, an Igbo (Nigerian) writer, is one of the twentieth century's most important novelists.
BERRY, Wendell (1970) The hidden wound. Houghton Mifflin: Boston.
A personal, and poetic, account of how one American came to understand the hurt that comes to those who enjoy "white privilege."
CAVALLI-SFORZA, Luigi Luca & CAVALLI-SFORZA, Francesco (1993, Eng. 1995) The great human diasporas. Addison-Wesley: New York.
The rigorous and readable account of the genetic unity of the human species, deals directly with questions of race and eugenics, especially the question of intelligence and "race," and includes a discussion of the popular modern racist tract, Herrnstein & Murray's "The Bell Curve."
CLARKE, J.J. (1997) Oriental enlightenment: The encounter between asian and western thought. Routledge: London.
Explores, with impressive scholarship, both western fascination with the east, and the influence of eastern thought on western mindsfrom the Renaissance to the presentand the reluctance of western scholars to acknowledge this influence.
CROMER, Alan (1993) Uncommon sense: The heretical nature of science. Oxford: NY.
Cromer's thesis is that scientific thinking is so far from natural for humans that, if the Greeks hadn't worked it out, it may never have been found. A corollary is that it could easily be lost (cf. Carl Sagan, "The Demon-Haunted World").
CHOMSKY, Noam (1994, 1996) World orders old and new. Columbia: New York.
Penetrating analysis of world balance of power as of 1993.
DIAMOND, Jared (1997) Guns, germs, and steel: The fates of human societies. W.W. Norton: New York.
Detailed study of the development of human societies under different climactic, geographical, and technological conditions. Shows conclusively that racist theories of cultural development simply fail to account for the facts. A readable, fascinating, and important review of up-to-date scholarship in many fields, with 29 pages of suggestions for reading.
DIAMOND, Jared (1992) The third chimpanzee: The evolution and future of the human animal. Harper Collins: New York.
Similar but more popular account than CAVALLI-SFORZA, above. Excellent update on broad range of research done since one was in school (much of it still not in school texts).
DOUGLAS, Susan J. (1994) Where the girls are: Growing up female with the mass media. Times Books: New York.
Douglas looks at media from a female point of view, from the 50's to the present, and with wit, balanced analysis, and insighta real eye-opener, and absolutely fun to read.
EHRENREICH, Barbara (1989) Fear of falling: The inner life of the middle class. HarperCollins: New York.
Sharp, insightful analysis.
FONSECA, Isabel (1995) Bury me standing: The Gypsies and their journey. Vintage: New York.
This book is great at many things, e.g. as an ethnography, history, and sociological study of prejudiced and racist attitudes towards the Gypsies. The remarkable parallels to African-American history are arresting. An absorbing, fascinating human document.
THE FREEDOM FORUM MEDIA STUDIES CENTER (1993) "The media and women without apology." Media Studies Journal Volume 7, Numbers 1-2.
A score of essays attempting to deconstruct and understand gender stereotypes and prejudices in media.
GATES, Henry Louis Jr. & Cornel West (1996) The future of the race. Knopf: New York.
Two leading American intellectuals, both African-American, examine W.E.B. De Bois' relevance for the present.
GATES, Henry Louis Jr. (1994) Colored people: A memoir. Knopf: New York.
Well written memoir of a leading African-American writer and intellectual, chair of Afro-American Studies at Harvard.
GATES, Henry Louis Jr. Editor. (1985, 1986) "Race," writing, and difference. Chicago UP: Chicago.
A spate of uninhibited scholarly articles.
GENOVESE, Eugene D. (1972, 1974) Roll, Jordan, roll: The world the slaves made. Vintage: New York.
Classic study of slavery in America.
GHOSH, Amitav (1993) In an antique land. Knopf: New York.
This is the narrative of an Indian journalist and novelist reconstructing the life of a twelfth century Indian slave in Egypt. An exploration of history and culture on a personal as well as social level.
GOULD, Stephen J. (1981) The mismeasure of man. W. W. Norton: New York.
The authoritative account of the race/intelligence controversy, both the historical and scientific sides. See also Gould's excellent review of Herrnstein & Murray's "The Bell Curve" (The New Yorker), in which he not only sets the record straight, but also clearly exposes the dishonest rhetoric of the authors, highlighting the tragic lack of good will and basic education that allowed this racist propaganda to pass itself off as science to a segment of the public. Gould is a brilliant writer on many scientific subjects. See especially his recent "Full House" for an account of evolution that puts "progress" in its proper placean occasional by-product, not the goal, of evolution.
HEATH, Shirley Brice (1983, 1996) Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge UP: Cambridge.
This is a wonderful, classic, ethnographic study of the life of two small, poor communities a few miles apart in the Piedmont Carolinasone African-American, the other Anglo. Heath has crossed the color line as few scholars have, living with both communities and studying language change, literacy, and social patterns, in and out of school and work, over a ten year period. A rich lesson in observation, listening, and empathetic understanding.
hooks, bell (1995) Killing rage: Ending racism. Holt: New York.
Penetrating essays that explore racism from a feminist perspective, and feminism from an African-American perspective. See also her wonderful study of schooling: (1994) Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. Routledge:New York.
JAYAKAR, Pupal (1990) The earth mother: Legends, goddesses, and ritual arts of India. Harper & Row: San Francisco.
A profound examination of the feminine side of a non-western tradition.
JAYNES, Julian (1976) The origin of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind. Houghton Mifflin: New York.
Jaynes' thesis is that our familiar kind of consciousnessan awareness of ourselves as individuals in a natural and social worldis not innate but learned, a kind of stumbling attempt to utilize all that gray matter. His wide-ranging argument is fascinating reading.
KABBANI, Rana (1986, 1994) Imperial fictions: Europe's myths of orient. Harper Collins: London.
A Muslim feminist debunks the sexist and racist rhetoric of the European colonizers, through close readings of literary texts.
KAKAR, Sudhir. (1978) The inner world: A psycho-analytic study of childhood and society in India. Oxford: Delhi.
A non-western society seen through western psychological concepts.
KEMF, Elizabeth ed. (1993) The law of the mother: Protecting indigenous peoples in protected areas. Sierra Club: San Francisco.
A collection of informative essays about many of the world's remaining indigenous peoples, with beautiful photography. A Sierra Club book promoting protection of these peoples and their cultures and languages.
KOTKIN, Joel (1992) Tribes: How race, religion, and identity determine success in the new global economy. Random House: New York.
An interesting thesis: that certain groups who maintain their cultural identity and also adopt science and technology will disperse geographically to take advantage of worldwide cultural, economic, and scientific changes, and end up wielding power out of proportion to their numbers. Chief examples are Jews, English, Japanese, Chinese, Indians. Each group is genetically diverseculture and identity are what hold them together.
LIEBERMAN, Philip (1984) The biology and evolution of language. Harvard University Press: Cambridge Mass.
Scholarly but readable account.
LEVI-STRAUS, Claude (1983, Eng. 1985) The view from afar. Basic Books: New York.
The renouned anthropologist's late work on race, culture, and family.
LOEWEN, James W. (1996) Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong. Simon & Schuster: New York.
This is not only an eye-opening study of how high school textbooks are produced and how they influence teachers and students, it is also a wonderful and concise update of American history, including the history of racism and sexism, from before Colombus to the Los Angeles riots and the debates over multiculturalismthe inclusion of women and minorities in our courses of study. Extremely balanced, accessible, and fully documented.
METHA, Ved (1976) Mahatma Gandhi and his apostles Penguin: London.
So much has been written about Gandhithis is an unvarnished look at him and his followers as people, warts and all. Wonderfully written and insightful.
ORNSTEIN, Robert (1991) The evolution of consciousness: Of Darwin, Freud, and cranial fire: the origins of the way we think. Prentice Hall: New York.
Wonderfully readable account of how the mind works, how it got that way, and where we can go from herestrongly influenced by Sufi ideas.
POTTS, Rick (1996) Humanity's descent: The consequences of ecological instability. Wiliam Morrow: New York.
The interrelationship of human life and the environment, from the beginning; comprehensive and detailed.
ROSE, Mike (1989) Lives on the boundary: a moving account of the struggles and achievements of America's educationally underprepared. Penguin Books: New York.
Sensitive, insightful account of how class, racial, and gender barriers to education can be overcome.
SADKER, Myra & David (1994) Failing at fairness: How our schools cheat girls. Simon & Schuster: New York.
We've all seen videotapes and read studies of how boys typically get more attention from both male and female teacherseven when the girls are clearly more prepared and interested, the boys are often permitted to ad lib and show off while the girls have to wait until the teacher has a bit of time for them, and then they are often expected to be brief and to come up with the "right answer." And we know how often texts omit or slight women. However, realizing that this is frequently the case doesn't change this outrageous situation by itself. This is a very readable and accessible analysis that offers ammunition for those who want to actually initiate and promote change. Besides facts and figures, it has many narratives which can be used to illustrate the sexist content of educational practice and raise the consciousness of those who should be concerned.
SAID, Edward W. (1993) Culture and imperialism. Knopf: New York.
Like Chomsky, Said is a scholar who doesn't shrink from addressing real, present political and social questions. In this book he explores the interactions of culture and the western imperialism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries through analyses of literary works. See also his "Orientalism" (1978)both are foundational works.
SOYINKA, Wole (1988, 1993) Art, dialogue, and outrage: Essays on literature and culture. Pantheon: New York.
Essays by Soyinka, a Nigerian, and one of the world's great writers.
STAAL, Frits (1988) Universals: Studies in Indian logic and linguistics. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Indian philosophy and ancient scholarship, particularly in linguistics, compared to modern western work. In a long and readable introduction, Staal exposes the prejudices which attribute inferior status to non-western intellectual work.
STANNARD, David. E. (92) American holocaust: The conquest of the new world. Oxford.
Particularly valuable in giving the lie to some very damaging myths about the indigenous American peoples and the behavior and motivations of the European colonizers. Fully documented and annotateda good update on recent scholarship.
STAPLES, Brent (1994) Parallel time: Growing up in black and white. Avon: New York.
Engaging autobiography by an African-American journalist.
TAGORE Rabindranath (1997) Rabindranath Tagore: An anthology. Krishna Dutta & Andrew Robinson, Editors. St. Martin's: New York.
One of the greatest thinkers and writers of the twentieth century, and the first Nobel Laureate in literature (1913) from outside of Europe, Tagore is just beginning to be translated well into English. Look for recent translations, especially of his poetry, e.g. Ketaki Kushari Dyson or William Radice. Along with Gandhi and others, Tagore helped Indians realize that they were not inferior to the Englishthat they could keep their own dignity and win their inalienable rights without sinking to the barbaric, racist level of the English.
TANNEN, Deborah (1994, 1996) Gender and Discourse. Oxford: New York.
This is the most recent of many wonderful and insightful books and articles which carefully illuminate how gender is expressed and understood in linguistic behavior. Her style is unadorned and all content. Some of her more popular work is very useful in the classroom, e.g. "You Just Don't Understand."
WIEGMAN, Robyn (1995) American anatomies: Theorizing race and gender. Duke: London.
Scholarly attempt to understand race and gender in American culture.
WRIGHT, Robert (1994) The moral animal: Evolutionary psychology and everyday life. Vintage: New York.
An introductin to a Darwinian approach which tries to understand human psychology as it has evolved to its present state.