Living with Racism: The Black Middle-class Experience

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Beacon Press, 1994 - Social Science - 398 pages
"One step from suicide" was the first response to Joe Feagin and Mel Sikes' question about how it feels to be middle-class and African-American. Despite the prevalent white view that racism is diminishing, this groundbreaking study exposes the depth and relentlessness of the racism that middle-class Black Americans face every day. From the supermarket to the office, the authors show, African Americans are routinely subjected to subtle humiliations and overt hostility across white America.

Based on the sometimes harrowing testimony of more than 200 Black respondents, Living with Racism shows how discrimination targets middle-class African Americans, impeding their economic and social progress, and wearying their spirit. A man is refused service in a restaurant. A woman is harassed while shopping. A little girl is taunted in a public pool by white children. These are everyday incidents encountered by millions of African Americans. But beyond presenting a litany of abuse, the authors argue that racism is deeply imbedded in American institutions and that the cumulative effect of these episodes is profoundly damaging. They argue that discrimination is experienced by their interviewees not as separate incidents, but as a process demanding their constant vigilance and shaping their personal, professional, and psychological lives.

With powerful insight into the daily workings of discrimination, this important study can help all Americans confront the racism of our institutions and our culture.


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LIVING WITH RACISM: The Black Middle-Class Experience

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A challenging, if not always thorough, reminder that middle- class blacks face accumulated experiences of racism too often ignored by the majority culture and scholars of race relations. Complementing ... Read full review


Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Eight

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About the author (1994)

Joe R. Feagin is a graduate research professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Florida. A specialist in racial and ethnic relations and discrimination, he is the author of many books.

Melvin P. Sikes is an educator and psychological consultant. He currently works as the coordinator for the Austin Community Policing Program, and as an anti-racism workshop leader for the Austin police department, Exxon, and local government agencies and schools.

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