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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
192 pages
Aug 2004
InterVarsity Press

Being White: Finding Our Place in a Multiethnic World

by Paula Harris & Doug Schaupp

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


Being White by Paula Harris and Doug Schaupp relies heavily on the personal experiences of the authors, supplemented by numerous biblical passages. Rather than address blatant racism, the authors focus on the subtle racial bias they insist stills pervades America. They demonstrate how they and their white associates frequently insult people of color as a result of the cultural ignorance shared by most white people.

As a reader, yes, I had to admit that many white people truly are "me"-oriented. Even so, in my view, these minor, honest mistakes seem blown out of proportion by the authors, making them into heinous crimes rather than social gaffs. It is logical to assume that when people of one culture transplant themselves into a new culture, they learn to adapt to the host surroundings, even while retaining elements of their heritage and former culture. Cultures are formed in response to the local geography, government, wildlife, climate, religion, and internal and external threats.

However, if what was pertinent in a former culture has absolutely no application to or value in the new culture, it is more logical to drop it rather than to try to force the host culture to adopt it. And that is what Harris and Schaupp never address nor even recognize.

The authors seem to view cultural characteristics as physical appendages rather than seeing them as cumulative responses to living conditions developed by a group of people over time. You may ask if cultural characteristics should be respected. Well, certainly. But are they to be preserved against change like rare and valuable pieces of ancient art? Not hardly. Instead of noticing that in America the whites and the people of color have formed a blended union during the past 300 years, the authors want contemporary whites to pay retribution for the offenses of their forefathers. The problem is that the actions of the forefathers were not offensive in that era, and today's whites, by and large, don't behave that way and are not guilty of such offenses. Punishment is not appropriate.

Early in the book, on page 18, the authors state, "We want to see changed hearts and a changed society." It's clear throughout the remainder of the book that the people the authors believe are in need of change are white Americans. Indeed, Mr. Schaupp relates that after his sophomore year in college, he spent six weeks in Mexico and was so critical of the United States, one of his Mexican friends finally asked him if there was anything positive about America. Schaupp replied in time, "The United States delivers mail on time." Only very late in the book does Schaupp note any of the positive characteristics of white people and the contribution white culture has made to world development.

The authors never address the deep, philosophical and practical issues of melding and merging cultures. They only spotlight specific examples of how communication has gone wrong and how that should have been prevented. They share personal experiences and the personal lessons they derived from each one. They use various biblical quotes to reinforce their viewpoints. The book is written in a rather dry academic tone and its philosophy would be considered "politically correct."

Although it provides insights on how to show cultural deference to other races and ethnic groups, it is so critical in its presentation of material that most white readers will not find it balanced enough to be enlightening reading. -- David R. Spaulding, Jr., Christian Book

Book Jacket:

What does it mean to be white?

When you encounter people from other races or ethnicities, you may become suddenly aware that being white means something. Those from other backgrounds may respond to you differently or suspiciously. You may feel ambivalence about your identity as a white person. Or you may feel frustrated when a friend of another ethnicity shakes his head and says, "You just don't get it because you're white."

  • So, what does it mean to be white?
  • How can you overcome the mistakes of the past?
  • How can you build authentic relationships with people from other races and ethnicities?

In this groundbreaking book, Paula Harris and Doug Schaupp present a Christian model of what it means to be white. They wrestle through the history of how those in the majority have oppressed minority cultures, but they also show that whites also have a cultural and ethnic identity with its own distinctive traits and contributions. They demonstrate that white people have a key role to play in the work of racial reconciliation and the forging of a more just society.

Filled with real-life stories, life-transforming insights and practical guidance, this book is for you if you are aware of racial inequality but have wondered, So what do I do? Discover here a vision for just communities where whites can partner with and empower those of other ethnicities.