A Counter Racist Book Review
by Josh Wickett
Author: Danzy Senna
Publisher: Riverhead books, 413 Pgs.
Caucasia is a novel written in the first person about a young girl whose mother is White and father is Black. The novel chronicles her experiences growing up in the North east United States and how racism played the defining role in everything that she experiences. This novel is a good example of what I term the myth of “Black Secrets,” the idea that there is information about Black people that White people don’t know about. All our embarrassing pathologies are out there; the light skin dark skin conflict, the good hair bad hair conflict, the “acting White” thing… Meanwhile there are alot of thing we don’t know about White people that never even get talked about let alone written about.
These are just a few of the race problems discussed in this novel that cause me to suspect that much of it is auto biographical. The story is about 2 daughters whose mother is a White liberal and father is a Black Radical. One of the daughters “Birdie” is light skinned like the mother and the other “Cole” is dark skinned like the father. Their mother is one of those White radicals from a good White family who decides to help Black people fight racism by getting them involved in all kinds of illegal activities (gun running, bomb making…) Meanwhile the father, being a relatively intelligent Black male realizes that you must have theory before practice, so he spends his time basically writing counter racist code. Throughout this book the father makes all kinds of codified statements which lend credibility to the book as a whole.
The parents are already annoyed with each other so when the Mom thinks she’s on the FBI “list” they decide to split up. “Birdie” the light skinned child goes underground with the Mom and assumes a new identity. “Cole” goes with the dad to Brazil where he heard there was no racism (ha ha.)
The rest of the book follows Birdie and her Mom as they live life on the run and this is where it gets really interesting. Birdies White Mom starts to practice deception like only a White person can. She makes up a story about how she is the widow of a “Jewish” professor who is trying to start life fresh after the death of her husband whom she loved very much. Birdie has to change her name to “Jesse” and pretend to be “Jewish.” The Mom chose the whole Jewish thing in order to account for her daughters darker color. The rest of the book is Jesse’s experiences around White people as she FUNCTIONS as a White Jew. This is critical because it allows you to see how in a system of White Supremacy, there is a group of people who intentionally “sit on the fence.” Several times when White people ask her what she is she answers, “Jewish.” But this doesn’t stop the White people around her from practicing racism.
Ive always felt that in order to “pass” as an undercover cop, you gotta act like a criminal. You gotta deal drugs, shoot people… you can’t just say you are. Jesse never mentions what she has to DO to BE White. She just plays the “Im Jewish” card and gets back on the fence. Now keep in mind that it was the White Mom who thought this whole angle up. They run this game for what appears to be a pretty long time and it has everyone fooled. Along the way you do get some inside information about White people such as what a WASP is and isn’t. And some interesting information about class structure among White people. But all in all this book would not offend the average White person so the quality of information about how White people practice racism and how victims should counter it is somewhat limited.
In the end the book has a happy ending, Birdie goes searching for her sister and finds her and her dad. Mom finds out the FBI wasn’t looking for her after all and she gets a boyfriend. The problem of racism is still their but we all feel better after reading this book right? Most of this novel is about Birdie and her Mom. There is another whole untold story about what went on with the father and Cole. The father meets a young Black woman named Carmen and he takes her and Cole to Brazil to get away from racism. At the end of the book you meet him in San Francisco and he talks about how racism is everywhere including Brazil. He Actually discusses “Brazillianation,” the situation where they treat you like a White person if you have money. This is a more refined form of racism that really confuses the victims because what you end up having is Black people running around saying, ” there ain’t no racism , its just that Black people ain’t got no money.”
I recommend this book. Specifically if you know a person who is interested in racism but is not ready for say Neely Fuller or Francis Welsing. There is just enough racial information to keep it interesting but not so much that a victim feels overwhelmed. Those of you fluent in counter racist code will see it sprinkled throughout the book. The statements made by the father are extremely interesting, you can almost feel him putting together counter racist code line by line. Of course the White Mom is pissed that all he seems to do is write and think about racism while she’s going all out getting bombs and guns for Black people. It looks good on her White liberal resume but it ain’t what Black people need from White people.
What Black people really need from White people is honesty. The truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth about how White Supremacy is practiced and maintained and what a White person is.
So far I haven’t found a single White person that will do this, have you?