White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 by Winthrop Jordan is a historical account of the native Africans under the slavery of the Americans in the sixteenth century.
White Over black is the examination of the values and attitudes of the Americans or Englishmen that suggests analyzing and determining what is wrong from their false beliefs and misconceptions that contributed to their discrimination against the Africans. This book reveals the shallow reason behind the deprecation among the Africans and conveys the mechanisms of the mind which teaches to shift the subconscious to consciousness and increase awareness and therefore, make people become more in control of one’s behavior and attitude. For the main reason of the African’s physical characteristics, “blackness” in complexion, hedonistic religion, animalistic hunting or killing, and the African’s lack of etiquette, the Englishmen oppressed the Africans’ freedom by maltreating them, abusing and torturing them physically, psychologically, and emotionally, and deprived them of their rights to eat, to rest, and even to live.Jordan showed an objective approach of presenting his insights and collected facts through this book. Providing a possible solution to end the racism, Jordan proposed introspection of knowing oneself to increase awareness of one’s actions and avoidance of rationalization for unjust actions.
White Over Black, is strongly recommended to all kinds of readers for its quality of being informative and substantial. The book is worth to read to enlighten people who are surmounted by personal bias and wrong preconceived notions that hinder effective social relations.Book Review on White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the NegroThe book, White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812 by Winthrop Jordan, is very enticing and captivating historical account of the native Africans’ experience of slavery in the hands of the Americans or Englishmen (UNCO, 2007). This book received several awards including the ff.: 1968 Francis Parkman prize, 1968 Ralph Waldo Emerson award by the Phi Beta Kappa, 1969 National book award, and also, winner of the 1969 Bancroft Prize in Columbia University (UNCO, 2007).White Over black is all about the analysis and scrutiny of the possible causes of prejudice and discrimination among the native Africans or Negroes, by the Americans or Englishmen.
This book conveys the reason behind the Americans’ negative preconceived notions and attitudes against the oppressed Africans. The Americans or Englishmen were observed to dislike, ostracize, and suppress those who are dissimilar from them in all ways which includes: complexion or physical characteristics, perception of beauty, race, religion, knowledge, behavior, etiquette, apparel, etc. This was shown in reality where the Americans constructed a false perception that they are the superior beings; their thought or belief was preceded by the feeling, and the feeling generated a drive to carry out what they were thinking. The Englishmen executed the belief by maltreating and degrading the Africans and also including the Indians, and making the latter as their slaves (Jordan, 1995). The book caught my attention and interest due to its controversial and intriguing title. I read the book thoroughly from cover to cover up to the end for its ability to inform and present the pressing issue and underlying causes of negative attitudes among the Americans. I chose to read this book because it widened my knowledge and understanding regarding the psychological explanation of American values and beliefs contributing to their attitude of colonizing those countries and races that they believe are inferior to them(Jordan, 1995).
I expected to see some possible solutions and insights to this matter and I was reasonably rewarded with the author’s position and viewpoints regarding the topic. I also liked the part of the book where I read the narration of the life of Olaudah Equiano, who was a Benin (African) slave himself, and witnessed the aggression and violence of Americans in treating the African slaves. I was overwhelmed when I read that Olaudah and his companions suffered terrible injustice, frequent tortures, and deprivation of food, freedom, and life. There even came a time where he and his companions chose death rather than continue living and serve the Americans for the rest of their lives. This made me realize that there was a thin line between the difference of the Americans and the Africans. Similarly, the Africans may seem different with their physical characteristics, but with the evident aggressive and violent attitude of the Americans, they are just the same with the Africans themselves. The latter may be associated with savagery and being beast-like, but the truth is, the Americans are worse (Jordan, 1995).Jordan’s position in his work is that the Americans practiced and got used to their unreasonable way of thinking that they were superior and therefore, they are limitless for the freedom they are enjoying regardless of the victims.
Jordan suggests careful examination of these irrational beliefs which might later on cause the America’s destruction in the present. Jordan attempts to elucidate the common social barriers caused by unconscious jingoism, chauvinism, and egotism to eliminate this personal “in-group” bias and to promote equality among races (UNCO, 2007). The strengths of this book are grounded on the objectivity of Jordan in presenting the facts together with his suppositions to understand the values of his own nation. White Over Black successfully investigated the roots to the American’s dilemma (UNCO, 2007). For instance, the Englishmen’s personal bias of disliking the African community and others hindered them to execute their obligation for the proliferation of Christianity among the diverse cultures and races (Jordan, 1995).
At worst, White Over black may sound offensive and pessimistic for the American’s part yet, it sought to be objective for the purpose of deriving the truth from historical experience. Winthrop Jordan, being an American himself, showed a concrete example of unbiased analysis with this masterpiece that is why I enjoyed reading the book. Moreover, I took pleasure in reading this book for it is an eye-opener for every reader, especially the Americans.
I also realized that beauty is skin deep and it should not meddle with the way we socialize with other people. There is a deeper meaning in life which is not mere survival. It is not survival to rationalize degradation and maltreatment or abuse just for the sake of boosting one’s ego (UNCO, 2007). People are distinct from animals for they have inherent will and a concept of what is good from bad.
Good people values human life and respect it while bad people resorts to serve their self-interests and pleasures not minding the costs of their actions. Therefore, people must practice goodness, value and respect other people’s existence, and know themselves in order to survive and live a better life with meaning (Jordan, 1995). The book is a good source of information and a worthwhile choice for the people who are interested in understanding the psychology of people and the dynamics of groups. I strongly recommend this book for those who are taking up social or human relations, social psychology, history, and group dynamics.