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Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk about Race and How to Do It
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Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk about Race and How to Do It

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  275 ratings  ·  52 reviews
Witnessing Whiteness invites readers to consider what it means to be white, describes and critiques strategies used to avoid race issues, and identifies the detrimental effect of avoiding race on cross-race collaborations. The author illustrates how racial discomfort leads white people toward poor relationships with people of color. Questioning the implications our history ...more
Paperback, 277 pages
Published January 1st 2010 by Rowman & Littlefield Education (first published 2007)
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Joe Henry
Jan 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I undertook to read this book with a church school class.

I felt more resistance earlier in Part 1, where chapters 1-2-3 are entitled: Naming the Problem, Facing the Dis-ease, and Uncovering a Hidden History. I recognize that I have been among the many who haven't experienced much or been aware of experiencing much or given much thought to what she is talking about. I wasn't forced to, I reckon--and, lo, verily, this is part of what is pointed to as "white privilege." (People of color
May 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: white people, especially Americans
Recommended to Grace by: YWCA Tulsa Groundwork Program
Tochluk's writing is definitely highly intellectualized and, in more than a few places, excessively wordy. This style is a good fit for most privileged white Americans (of which I am one). I think this was the goal, so her style should not count against her. I personally felt more connection with the personal accounts and conversations and with the psychological discussions especially when they included references to Carl Jung or Hecate. Sometimes I got lost among the forest of words and had to ...more
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three star book that inspired five star discussion.
Great info... Not my favorite writing style
Dec 24, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In many ways this is a great introductory instructive book to help us see race differently. The main and biggest idea is an important perspective shift to see white as a race and thus how that race has impacted history, race relations, and continues to perpetuate racism and division in the US. However, the author often uses a narcissistic voice and an illustrative style that I found ultimately alienating. I read this book in conjunction with a 10 session long support group facilitated through my ...more
Judith Mowry
Aug 05, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This book is blowing my mind. Shelly Tochluk's journey toward being a conscious antiracism activist is so similar to my own and it all rings true. Fantastic book for those interested in learning more about how to personally work to end racism
El Dubbs
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
Insightful at times, but would not be a book I recommend exactly. It's useful as a learning tool in conjunction with a "Witnessing Whiteness" group (which was available through my local YWCA). Also: way too much purple prose. Seriously. Editor, where were you...?
Emily Olds
Aug 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read a lot of books about race and racism. This one was a game changer. While at first I was a little put off by the references to mythology-- Hecate, more specifically-- I let that discomfort go and listened instead to the incredibly helpful insights about whiteness. I had several moments of epiphany. Hearing that white people state their opinions as fact was a big one for me-- as a teacher of writing I have literally been COACHING my students to state their opinions as fact. Also helpful ...more
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race-education
"One criticism involves the tendency to use the noun “ally” as a label. Some argue that the term can be taken to mean that once someone achieves the status of an ally that the person has reached a sufficient level of consciousness across the board and can discontinue internal work. For this reason, I tend to speak of doing effective ally work as opposed to becoming an ally."

As this is literally a textbook, there were some sections I had difficulty wading through. The first section went over so
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was very helpful to me in many ways. It is well written (although I could have done without the frequent references to Hecate) and includes references to many other resources where white people can continue identifying lingering and/or unconscious racism within themselves. I added many of the resources to my "to-read" list here on Goodreads. In it, I found relevant questions to think about, and language to describe some of my "stuck" places. Most importantly, it pointed out practical w ...more
Marion Irwin
The information here points to a huge gap I had in understanding how thorough the racist system is. That being said, it was hard going, both because the writing is not particularly flowing, and the information is extremely disturbing.

That being said, I read this as part of a class and that effort has been productive- I do feel that until our voting rights, economic system and criminal justice system is fully reformed, we will continue to harm not only the people of color in the United States, b
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While I appreciate what Tochluk is trying to do in her book, I think there are better books in helping you develop an antiracist practice. The book is quite condescending and hypocritical - Tochluk seems to push a message that she does not follow. The book is Tochluk's thesis and the style of writing leaves much to be desired. The book is dismissive of the concept of intersectionality, which is incredibly important when looking at antiracist practices. Tochluk and the book have a good mission, b ...more
Nov 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has a lot of important ideas, and it often made me reconsider my thoughts on race and what it means to be white. However, the writing was dry and non-specific, which made reading it not very enjoyable. Tochluk would describe a situation in vague terms, perhaps in an effort to be considerate to the subjects of the situation, but it was hard to relate to the stories when they were described this way. I would still recommend this book to start the conversation around how to talk about rac ...more
Witnessing Whiteness: First Steps Toward an Antiracist Practice and Culture (Paperback)
by Shelly Tochluk

White by Law: The Legal Construction of Race
Constructing The Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History Of Psychotherapy
Feb 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for a workshop at my workplace and it was okay. I'm not white so this book really isn't written for me. It was kind of strange reading this book....

I really enjoyed the history chapter and thought that had a lot of good information. The rest of the book was a little outdated in my view and a bit too focused on white feelings. Like I didn't care for it but again this book wasn't written for me.

Anyways, it gets three stars for trying but overall I would recommend the book "So You
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as part of a discussion group. Embracing the idea that if white people don't talk about race (with people of color and other whites) there can be no change is important, but challenging. This is a practical starting point that allows people to have hard conversations and reflect on their own experiences and assumptions. It feels especially timely now, after the 8 year Obama presidency and the backlash of the 2016 election.
Lee Shaver
Tochluk is a powerful and convicting voice for white folks just starting to open their eyes to our collective blindness to race and racism in our daily lives, and our active participation in racist systems. The book is well researched and I look forward to reading several of the books and essays referenced here.
Kristen Spencer
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hope every white person reads this book. It was very enlightening and thought provoking. I thankfully learned a lot about white privilege during my time in social work school. However, there is still so much to learn. The chapter about the history of whiteness was so, so good. I cannot recommend this book enough.
May 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2017
A must read for white people. The writing style leaves much to be desired, but the information and topic is vital to being an anti-racist white person. I'd recommend reading it in a book club where you can discuss each chapter with discussion questions from online.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a helpful perspective on white privilege and what to do about it, written by a white person for white people. It's kind of academic; not an easy read, but worth it. A group of us from my professional association read this & had an online book discussion that was really good. ...more
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Dec 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really grateful to have read this book with a small group of faculty/staff from my school. If you’re interested, connect with your local YWCA to join a book group - way more impactful to read and discuss with others.
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were some good points in this book, but it felt as though there were two different books in one that needed to be teased out to be fully useful. Also, there were a few grating tropes that the author used (not related to race). There are better books to read on the topic.
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Would you like some information and insight into white culture, white privilege, institutional racism and what we can do to learn how to help dismantle the racism inherent in ourselves and our culture? This book is a good start.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Good insights, particularly in terms of defining what "white culture" is, which is often invisible to white people. Helps to have a group to discuss this with - that's how it was designed to be read in the first place.
Jodie Thill
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this as a part of a discussion group. The book was great for facilitating discussion and unpacking issues around race and privilege.
B.T. Gottfred
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book. Ahead of its time when published, now powerfully of its time.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went through the witnessing whiteness program and read this book as part of it. It was an awesome experience.
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the message but not the way it was presented. Or maybe I just didn’t care for the author’s personality. That’s a risk when you include yourself in your book.
Jun 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The description says it’s for educators: I’d say it’s for anyone trying to understand and heal racial relations.
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