Mini nonfiction reviews of two books about American politics by Carol Anderson: One Person, No Vote and White Rage.
This week I read two nonfiction books written by Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying Our Democracy.
The former arose out of a Washington Post article Anderson wrote in response to the protests that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Michael Brown; the latter was written after Trump won the 2016 election despite losing the popular vote.
In both books Anderson critiques the media’s representation of African Americans. In White Rage, the author claims that commentators’ focus on the spectacle of “Black rage” during times of social protest distracts from the fact that white hostility toward racial justice rules daily life in America. In One Person, No Vote, she argues that the drop in turnout among Black voters in the 2016 election was due not to apathy, as many in the media claimed, but vicious voter suppression tactics.
White Rage is a comprehensive overview of racial injustice in America, whereas One Person, No Vote is a detailed look at the history of disenfranchisement and voter suppression, from the time of Reconstruction up until the present.
Released months before the end of the Obama presidency, White Rage charts the history of white backlash to Black social advancement in America. Whether describing Southern efforts to thwart Reconstruction or analyzing national voter suppression campaigns, Carol Anderson details the many ways in which American history has been shaped by white rage, the perpetual outpouring of violence and terror in response to Black achievement and success. The author’s style is engaging and reads easily, and her book is excellent as an introduction to the history of racial injustice in America. Those looking for something more in-depth, though, will be a bit let down.
An accessible introduction to the history of disenfranchisement in America, One Person, No Voteexamines the resurgence of voter suppression across the nation since the 2000 election. Carol Anderson argues that Republicans have responded to their growing unpopularity not by developing more inclusive policies but by systematically depriving people of color, especially Black people, of their right to vote. Chapter by chapter, Anderson details the sly and underhanded ways in which Republicans have gerrymandered districts, closed polling places, purged voter rolls, instituted voter ID laws, and thwarted early voting efforts over the past two decades. All the while, GOP officials have spread the myth of rampant voter fraud, claiming that their undemocratic practices are merely honest attempts to restore “election integrity.” Anderson lucidly conveys how Republicans are seeking to resurrect and nationalize Jim Crow laws; her language is straightforward, her argument well developed and terrifying.