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Race: How Blacks And Whites Think And Feel About The American Obsession

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  504 ratings  ·  41 reviews
First published in 1992 at the height of the furore over the Rodney King incident, Studs Terkel's Race was an immediate bestseller. In a rare and revealing look at how people in America truly feel about race, Terkel brings out the full complexity of the thoughts and emotions of both blacks and white, uncovering a fascinating narrative of changing opinions. Preachers and st ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by The New Press (first published April 1st 1992)
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4.27  · 
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 ·  504 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Dec 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: race, history
Aside from me pointing out that this book was both monumentally uplifting and monumentally depressing, it only seems appropriate to let the people speak for themselves:

Alex Berteau, partner at a black law firm: "There seemed to be a positive change in the seventies. Whatever momentum was there went bang, after Reagan became president. I'm not about the business of tearing down Ronnie. He's just somebody who came along. He happened to be in the place for eight years. What I'll never understand wa
Chris Witt
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The thing I love about Studs Terkel's books is how it immediately calms you down and makes you look at your fellow man a little different. I should amend that. If you are the sort of person who demands that everybody looks at things the same as you, has the same opinions as you, and lives the same way you do, then you may be frustrated by his books. Because what really comes out in his short interviews with ordinary people from all different backgrounds are the complexities of humanity.

In his bo
C. Scott
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Studs Terkel always had a strong belief in the wisdom of the masses. Too often American media and establishment figures treat the public like we are too stupid to understand anything. I think the books that Studs Terkel put together over his long career prove this notion wrong. Regular people know the score. And if you can get them to let their defenses down and open up, Terkel's greatest skill, you will get insights into the human condition that no PhD's dissertation would ever reveal.

Another t
Jun 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Studs Terkel's "Race" is another in a series of books that provides an excellent oral history about subjects that few feel free to talk about. If you like oral history, then you'll love Studs Terkel. Famous for his classic book "Working", he seeks out common "unfamous" Americans and simply asks them to talk about what they think about Race and race relations, in this book. Written in 1990, the book is a little dated, but still holds largely true. There are around 100 interviews in this book. He ...more
Amy Wilder
Nov 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Amy Wilder by: Commonwealth School
Changed my life by opening my eyes to how racism works, how pervasive and insidious it can be - and also how it hurts people, how it changes people, and how it breaks down sometimes.

This book also proves that racism is real which may sound weird if you grew up knowing it was real - but if you grew up in a polite, PC, 90% white neighborhood like mine where no-one was called names it draws back the veil.

Thank you very much, Studs Terkel, I miss you.
Joanne Zienty
Jul 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Sad to say, it would seem we have not made much progress in the two decades since this book has been published... in fact, in some ways, we've regressed.
Eliot Boden
Amazingly relevant, 30 years later.
Dan Salerno
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Studs Terkel has always impressed me with his ability to get people to speak their mind. (And in an era before the Internet and Social Media, the tone of his work radiated an authenticity that is now sorely lacking.)

His book, RACE, was no exception to this overarching characteristic of his legendary career.

Although written more than 20 years ago, RACE was prophetic in its summation of the extent of the problem of racism in the US. It wasn't a call to action. It wasn't a analysis of the situation
Apr 21, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: social-justice
An oral history of race relations in the U.S. that despite its flaws should probably be read by everyone.

It's not perfect: it's a little dated and a little too focused on the civil rights backlash, black-white relations and the consequences of de-industrialization in the Midwest. In other words it's very Chicago. An entirely different book would have arisen out of an oral history of the Los Angeles riots -- which went down the same year "Race" was published (1992).

That said, Studs Terkel is a fa
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
The interview approach provides a more candid point of view based on an individual life experience, which provides more truth to it. For some of the participants it was not clear if they were white or black until an unforeseen observation they made revealed how they perceived themselves. It takes place in the 1990s in Chicago area, but the history still holds. In fact it is surprisingly prescient about the hollowing out of the working class and destruction of jobs. I enjoyed it, but was not nece ...more
Benjamin Lettuce Treuhaft
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This one's taking me a while to read, started a couple of months ago in Japan. I have to find out how people go from normal American white racist like my earlier self to loving and admiring black red and yellow folks. I'm starting to see how it works in these fascinating tales told to the amazing Studs Turkel by people on all sides of the color line. By the way I think it must be far easier to change people's minds about black folks than we think (given the sorry decades of stasis since the civi ...more
Sep 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Interviews with everybody from a Black Panther to a KKK Grand Dragon, but the truly interesting interviews are the ones in the middle, so to speak. The neighborhood people. The clergy. The teacher. The tradesmen. Studs Terkel is brilliant. I sometimes have a hard time believing that there are people -- particularly Chicagoans -- who've never read any of his work.
John Nelson
As with all oral histories, the speakers in this book are chosen because they state - or sometimes just serve as examples of - the author's own opinions. What emerges is a tapestry of whites who both acknowledge the imperfections of the past and are trying to move the country forward, but have some legitimate concerns the direction society is going, and blacks who are both deeply aggrieved and sometimes profoundly racist. Working class whites often are portrayed (unfairly I think) in an especial ...more
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
Watching Friends has almost certainly made me a worse person in every way, but I would probably never have picked up this book if I hadn't noticed Ross reading it at one point. So I guess it was worth it?

I wish Studs Terkel were still alive, so he could re-interview the people featured in this book. Some thought racial issues were getting better at the time (1990), and some thought they were getting worse. It would be interesting to see what they'd say about the past ten years.
Jan Owen
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a great book that fosters great discussions. Not for the faint of heart. Studs is great at capturing different perspectives. I didn’t complete, but plan to pick it up from time to time. The writing style allows for this, so give yourself time
If you live in the United States, if you have ever lived in the United States, you should read this book.
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
I read through page 133 and got what I was looking for. Terkel's perspective on race in America. He was spot on.
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These books are all deceptively simple, but brilliantly put together. Powerful stories; depressingly relevant, what, 27 years later?
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good news: 25 years later, we're still obsessed and barely any better at it.
Lucy Hay
Jan 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and accessible book, with thoughts on race direct from the people living with its ramifications through a period of history I remember so well - the early 90s. It was around this time as a child I began to think about the diversity of the human race ... Which was also not un-coincidentally a time of non-stop coverage in the news about Rodney King, Stephen Lawrence and others. My key takeaway from the book is historical context. I can see better how the unrest has led to the exploitat ...more
Mar 27, 2009 added it
Shelves: interviewees
Read the STOP SMILING interview with Studs Terkel:

By Danny Postel and JC Gabel

(This interview originally appeared in the STOP SMILING Chicago Issue)

Studs Terkel is “as much a part of Chicago as the Sears Tower and Al Capone,” a BBC journalist once remarked.

Indeed, just as tourists to the “city of the century” throng to the skyscraper's observation deck and make their way to one or another of the gangster's old haunts, many a writer has pilgrimaged to the Uptown home of Chica
An interesting read in the aftermath of the November election where we just elected our first biracial President and the new sense of hope that this event has fostered. This book looks at the issue of race in America following Reagan's what seemed like endless terms in office and just as the first Bush takes his place as President. I also would say that the book offers a particularly Chicago view of the issue. From those interviewed, it is clear that Reagan make it fashionable - even okay - to e ...more
May 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people with skin
There is no "them" just individuals.

This Studs Terkel book only took me a little over a year to read, far faster than the four years it took me to read Working.

Reading this book is like having a discussion with 88 different people about race, racism, prejudice, and bigotry. Maybe it is more like listening in on someone's dinnertable conversation, if we could sit down with each other and listen. A conversation that we should partake in and continue.

"I believe in my bones that the things that sep
I am impressed that Studs Terkel focuses on what everyday people want to say regarding race (primarily black vs white) rather than focusing on organizers or out spoken bigots. Throughout the entire book, he humbly documents his conversations and really lets his interviewee be in full focus. Also his subjects are in Chicago so it has some personal geographic significance. The simplicity of the process allows so many layers of racial perception to emerge.

I learned a lot about the dual significance
Mar 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology, race
I thought this one would be a quicker read than it was. I actually called it quits with about 30 pages left because I felt like I'd gotten out of it just about all that I could. Of course, that's not to say it isn't interesting material, but it's bound to get a little repetitive with so many people being interviewed. I marked several pages that seemed like they could have just as easily been written today as in 1992, when this was published. Remarks about overpolicing, about housing segregation, ...more
Julie H.
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I heard Terkel speak years ago at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) on race just after this book was published. Terkel is to be commended for acknowledging the proverbial elephant in the room. So why is it that it's the working class guy who gets us to begin a long-overdue national converesation? (I sincerely hope he's watching from heaven as the nation elected its first African American president.)
Justin Howe
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Whether you agree or disagree with this book is moot. Terkel collects oral histories from a variety of sources and as such gives a decent snapshot on the subject matter. Take issue with it, sure, but with much of Terkel's work we, the American public, are better when we accept Terkel as one of our cultural historians and confront his work straight on.
Holly Brockman
Another First. I read this book in 1992 while I was pregnant with Kennan. Growing up in an all white county in Western Kentucky, I wanted to learn as much as I could about race so if any of the racist tendencies from my upbringing could be partnered with a real intellectual's thinking about the issue.
Nov 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It was a wonderful peak into our minds as a collective. Some people I agreed with, some I didn't. Most of all, I was able to see the motivations behind stereotypes; fear of the unknown. The complexities that make up America will not be fixed overnight. America is a family with definite hang ups.
Steve Grenz
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great book....The perspectives of a wide variety of folks of all colors and economic levels give insights into the myths and realities of race in America. I really wish Studs was around and I was still hearing his brilliant radio program.
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Louis "Studs" Terkel was an American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster. He received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985 for "The Good War", and is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago.

Terkel was acclaimed for his efforts to preserve American oral history. His 1985 book "The Good War: An Oral History
“The white American is not innately racist. I sense innate docility. He will follow the law if the leadership tells him to do that. He would not rebel if he thought he'd be punished. But if the laws are flouted and winked at, he'll wink, too.' - interview with Leona Brady” 0 likes
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