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Prejudice Across America

Prejudice Across America

James Waller
Copyright Date: 2000
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    Prejudice Across America
    Book Description:

    The experiences of a teacher and his white students on a nationwide trek toward racial understanding

    In 1998 James Waller took twenty-one white college students from Washington state on a month-long journey.Prejudice Across Americais the record of their interaction with the American Indian, Asian American, African American, Hispanic, and Jewish experiences nationwide. Few books have so directly and humanly captured the moment when whites confront the realities of those living as a minority in America.

    Waller reports here on this innovative and award-winning trek. In Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, Birmingham, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., his students hear both the official story of prejudice and the street story from people living and dealing with racism on a daily basis.Prejudice Across Americais as much the journal of these travelers and what they face as it is a sweeping, up-close survey of the nation's racial landscape.

    The students walk the cheerless halls of a South Side housing project in Chicago, experience the agitated aftermath of the Olympic Games in Atlanta, and attend a briefing with President Clinton's Initiative on Race. All along the way, they hold wide-ranging group discussions and experience the unpredictable adventure of traveling by train, plane, and public transit.

    Drawing on student journals and on interviews with community leaders and activists throughout the country, Waller paints a compelling and provocative portrait of the nation's prejudice. In addition,Prejudice Across Americaincludes analyses of the obstacles to reconciliation in each of the cities on the tour's itinerary.

    As they travel, students confront the thorny issues of race in America, face down stereotypical thoughts, prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviors, and uncover more tough questions than easy answers. As Waller and another group of students prepare for a similar trek in 2001,Prejudice Across Americawill allow readers to join them in introspection and self-discovery in the urban reality of an America where diversity isn't simply a buzzword, but a way of life.

    James Waller is a professor of psychology at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. He has also publishedFace to Face: The Changing State of Racism Across America(1998).

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-030-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Douglas Brinkley

    “O Public Road … you express me better than I can express myself.” I first read Walt Whitman’sLeaves of Grassas an Ohio schoolboy. The great Democratic chant struck me hard, a lightning bolt of simple, authoritative words proclaiming that only in motion do people really have a chance to turn dreams into reality. Even as a fourteen-year-old, I had already suspected such. After all, my favorite reading, be it Jack London’s Alaska stories, Mark Twain’s Mississippi River tales, or Jack Kerouac’s highway antics, had adventurous escape as a subplot. What sense did it make to be trapped in...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxv-2)
  6. INTRODUCTION: The Making of “Prejudice Across America”
    (pp. 3-16)

    The importance of seeing with the other’s eyes was brought home to me on the last Sunday of our 1996 study tour. On that morning, we attended a worship service at Mount Zion United Methodist Church, a predominantly black church in Georgetown on the western fringe of Washington, D.C. Mount Zion has a rich heritage reaching back to its pre–Civil War days as a stop on Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad. Following the service, an elderly black woman pulled me aside. She asked if I had enjoyed the service. I responded positively and expressed my deep appreciation for the congregation’s...

    (pp. 17-40)

    The essential key to our journeys of self-discovery on the tour would be the ability to frame good questions in good ways—without thinking we already had all of the answers. It was important for us to be “preparedly ignorant.” If we could do that, we would position ourselves to squeeze the most out of our month-long trip across America. The fall preparation course was designed to bring us to that point of “teachableness.” In other words, the answers that wecouldfind on the tour, we would be in a positiontofind.

    In January 1996, students worked on...

    (pp. 41-74)

    Before it seems possible, the plane from Spokane to Los Angeles has touched down at lax. I find most of the students at our prearranged meeting point. Joy is waiting with several others at the baggage claim. Once we are all assembled, I call a shuttle service and the trip has officially begun. We make our way toward Hollywood and our three nights at the Banana Bungalow.

    The original settlement of what would become the city of Los Angeles is traced to September 4, 1781. In anticipation of that day, Felip de Neve, governor of California, had taken great pains—...

    (pp. 75-100)

    After the quick up-and-down flight to San Francisco, we head for our hostel at Fort Mason in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. At 31,000 acres, this is one of the world’s largest metropolitan parks. It is beautifully situated on the bay that includes the historic Presidio of San Francisco and the Marin Headlands. The hostel itself, which was opened in 1980, is housed in a renovated, historic, Civil War–era building. We arrive late in the evening. From the front of the hostel looking south, we are treated to the scenic lights of San Francisco. Tomorrow, we will wake...

    (pp. 101-136)

    Most tour books and many residents of Chicago trace the city’s beginnings to 1802 and the building of Fort Dearborn by U.S. federal troops. In truth, however, the birth of Chicago goes back to 1772. In that year, a black fur trader from Haiti, Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable (1745–1818), founded the settlement Eschikagou on the northern bank of the Chicago River. Some say DuSable was the son of a French nobleman, others say he was a runaway slave. Regardless, his settlement marked the true dawn of Chicago and DuSable stands as the first Chicagoan. DuSable’s home, which is located...

    (pp. 137-160)

    Amtrak: Experience the magic. From the very first day I began planning these tours, I saw Amtrak as the way for us to traverse America. On the 1996 tour, we rode Amtrak from coast to coast and only flew for our return from Washington, D.C., to Spokane. However, the rigid calendar limits of the January term, coupled with a desire to add an additional stop, made me revise the 1998 itinerary. I dropped train travel between Los Angeles and San Francisco and, more importantly, the brain-scalding fifty-hour leg between California and Chicago. From Chicago on, though, the 1998 tour rode...

    (pp. 161-174)

    We enjoy bright daylight for the nine-hour trip from Memphis to New Orleans. It is a welcome opportunity to soak in the scenery that gives so much flavor to the South. Some students, who are playing their perpetual game of Pinochle in the snack car, find that the learning experiences on the tour are not limited to our listed itinerary. During the game, a young, white man engages the group in some informal conversation. After a bit, the group tells him about the tour. He gives a sharp whistle and is silent for a few minutes. Then, in a mocking...

    (pp. 175-200)

    After an uneventful seven-hour trip, the owner of Point A–Point B Transportation Services meets us at the Birmingham Amtrak station. Dorothea, a black woman born and raised in the area, is immediately captured by the purpose of our study tour. She enthusiastically tells us about the many human rights activities in which she is engaged. Just this morning, she attended the Martin Luther King Unity Breakfast at the Civic Center. That was followed by a Freedom March through the six-block area of the Birmingham Civil Rights District.

    “Unfortunately,” she goes on to say, “those were the only major civic...

    (pp. 201-236)

    Hotlanta. A City Worth Seeing. The City Too Busy to Hate. The Next Great International City. The City without Limits. The Brave and Beautiful City. The Black Mecca. Capital of the New South. Atlanta: Come Share Our Dream. Star on the Rise. From its earliest days, Atlanta has used sloganeering, self-promotion, and boosterism to create the image it wished to present to itself and the rest of the world. From your first entry into the city limits or your initial step onto the airport concourse, you are assaulted by the city’s pride in itself. This pride is both gratingly annoying...

    (pp. 237-278)

    We arrive at beautiful Union Station in the heart of Washington, D.C. We have just a few hours before our afternoon tour with Capitol Entertainment Services. They are a privately owned, black business that offers guided tours of the national monuments and memorials and—what brings us to them—a black heritage tour. It is a four-hour whirlwind tour that comes too close on the heels of an overnight leg on Amtrak. Regardless, for those who stay awake, it does give some redeeming insights into the story of the black community in the nation’s capital.

    Our first stop is the...

    (pp. 279-288)

    The tour was a time so busy that we could not step back to see it until several weeks or months later. We arrived back in Spokane on January 28 and the spring semester started on February 3. We barely had time to unpack our clothes, let alone our experiences. For me, there was a mountain of correspondence that needed replies, syllabi to construct for the upcoming semester, and a family with which to reacquaint myself. For the students, there was the impending spring semester (for many of them, the last of their undergraduate career) and the almost impossible-to-answer question...

  17. Appendix A: Itinerary of the 1998 Tour
    (pp. 289-294)
  18. Appendix B: Bibliographic Essay
    (pp. 295-304)
  19. Index
    (pp. 305-310)