4177When White is Black (Book Review)
- Dec 3, 2011
When White is Black
--- written by John A. Martin Jr
This memoir describes the social aspects of a young boy
and his family growing up in an America where the shade
of your skin can determine your fate and where the
racist One-Drop Rule has far-reaching ramifications.
John Martin's interest in American race relations is
so deeply embedded in his family heritage, that he
finds it impossible to identify its beginnings.
He believes that race as a social construct became
an unavoidable fact of life at the point of conception
for most African-Americans of his generation.
[H]e considers himself fortunate to be a small part of
the continuing movement ... which transcends race.
John Martin fervently hopes that When White is Black,
his first published book, will offer some help in our
ongoing quest to understand and move beyond the
many onerous repercussions of race in America .
"An early morning phone call announcing his mother's accidental
death and the coroner's inquiry regarding her race set Martin
pondering the complicated Mixed-Race heritage of his family.
His mother, who appeared White, was Mixed,
with White, Black, and Seminole Indian blood.
Martin explores the tortured complexities of how the
Mixture of White and Black was historically recorded and
determined and eventually evolved into the One-Drop Rule.
He recalls a great-grandfather so fair he lived as a White man ...
Martin's mother was light enough to "pass" for White;
instead, she navigated a balance between demanding
respect and accepting any advantages that came
with fair skin but also eventually became an alcoholic.
Martin's recollection of his family history is a poignant example
of the complexity and effect of racial designations in America ."
Vanessa Bush © American Library Association.
"An extraordinary story -- a richly textured genealogy
that is also a vehicle for searing social commentary
about two centuries of race in America .
John Martin displays an uncanny ability to
combine passion and restraint -- and he provides
us with unusual insight into the lived experience of
navigating along the nation's most volatile faultline."
--- Troy Duster, Author of 'Whitewashing
Race: The Myth of a Colorblind Society'.
"Looking back on his family's history, John Martin visits a
fascinating cast of characters, some of whom he knew and
loved, some of whom he heard about and admired, all
of whom, whatever their lineage or skin tone, fought to
survive in a nation where the One-drop Rule of racism
relegated African-Americans to what U.S. Supreme
Court Chief Justice Taney described in 1857
as a "subordinate and inferior class of beings."
Fully aware that echoes of Taney's
pronouncement still reverberate in the
twenty-first century, Martin expressively argues
that with the demise of the One-drop Rule, his
variously hued children and grandchildren
have a chance to live ... in an America that
may some day achieve the full meaning of its
designation as "The World's First Multicultural Society.
Martin has written a memoir that matters."
--- Mason Drukman, Ph.D and author
of 'Community and Purpose in America
and Wayne Morse A Political Biography'.
"A deeply moving story of a Mixed-Race family's struggle
for survival and Identity through several generations.
They and the underlying theme of racism make this
family story a compelling and truly American tale."
--- Michael O'Neill, Professor of Nonprofit
Management and Founder of the Institute
for Nonprofit Organization Management
at the University of San Francisco.
"Very moving because of its painful honesty.
He records the corrosive effects of racism and
discrimination on realpeople in American society.
He is courageous in revealing his own
emotional responses to that racism and to the
disruptions in his own life that it has caused.
'When White is Black' represents the culmination of a long
and important career during which (Martin) shaped the
program of Stiles Hall at the University of California
at Berkeley to educate generations of young men
and women to be leaders in the fight against racism.
His life is a true model of activism and this book
should be an inspiration to young leaders
as they pursue their goals of a just society."
--- Clara Sue Kidwell, Professor and Director
of the Native American Studies Program
at the University of Oklahoma.
About the Author
John Martin Jr., was raised in Berkeley , California ,
where he later spent the bulk of his professional
career, as the general director of a social service agency.
His life journey has included four
years of service in the U.S. Air Force,
B.A. and M.A. degrees from San Francisco State
University and the University of Omaha respectively,
post Master's degree study at Tufts University and
the University of California at Berkeley , and a
wonderfully satisfying professional life working
in anti-poverty programs, social service,
education, and Civil Rights organizations.
RELATED LINK: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/3331
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