White Poverty: How Exposing Myths About Race and Class Can Reconstruct American Democracy (Hardcover)

White Poverty: How Exposing Myths About Race and Class Can Reconstruct American Democracy By William J. Barber, II, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (With) Cover Image
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A generational work with far-ranging social and political implications, White Poverty, promises to be one of the most influential books in recent years.

One of the most pernicious and persistent myths in the United States is the association of Black skin with poverty. Though there are forty million more poor white people than Black people, most Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, continue to think of poverty—along with issues like welfare, unemployment, and food stamps—as solely a Black problem. Why is this so? What are the historical causes? And what are the political consequences that result?

These are among the questions that the Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, a leading advocate for the rights of the poor and the “closest person we have to Dr. King” (Cornel West), addresses in White Poverty, a groundbreaking work that exposes a legacy of historical myths that continue to define both white and Black people, creating in the process what might seem like an insuperable divide. Analyzing what has changed since the 1930s, when the face of American poverty was white, Barber, along with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, addresses white poverty as a hugely neglected subject that just might provide the key to mitigating racism and bringing together tens of millions of working class and impoverished Americans.

Thus challenging the very definition of who is poor in America, Barber writes about the lies that prevent us from seeing the pain of poor white families who have been offered little more than their “whiteness” and angry social media posts to sustain them in an economy where the costs of housing, healthcare, and education have skyrocketed while wages have stagnated for all but the very rich. Asserting in Biblically inspired language that there should never be shame in being poor, White Poverty lifts the hope for a new “moral fusion movement” that seeks to unite people “who have been pitted against one another by politicians (and billionaires) who depend on the poorest of us not being here.”

Ultimately, White Poverty, a ringing work that braids poignant autobiographical recollections with astute historical analysis, contends that tens of millions of America’s poorest earners, the majority of whom don’t vote, have much in common, thus providing us with one of the most empathetic and visionary approaches to American poverty in decades.

About the Author

Reverend William J. Barber II is a Protestant minister, social activist, professor, and founding director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School. President of Repairers of the Breach, Barber will lead the Poor People’s Campaign’s March on Washington in June 2024.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is founder of the School for Conversion and assistant director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School.

Praise For…

‘One of the most damnable features of our common life is the way we talk about poverty as if it’s an anomaly and not a feature of our economic system,’ writes [Reverend William J.] Barber II, founding director of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy at Yale Divinity School. That feature shifts wealth from the already have-nots to the already haves, but with divisive subterfuge: White Americans are thought to be working-class and Blacks poor. The definition of poverty must be extended, notes the author, to incorporate anybody who cannot afford to pay rent and their other expenses, which would result in a number far larger than is now counted by official reports… [WHITE POVERTY is] a meaningful call to revise our view of poverty and to insist on real action to rectify the situation.

— Kirkus Reviews

Reverend Barber is one of the foremost leaders in our country working to take on poverty and economic injustice. He knows that we can bring about great change by building a multi-racial, multi-generational coalition of working-class people. Building a mass movement of ordinary people is how we end today’s unprecedented levels of greed and economic inequality. WHITE POVERTY is a guide for how we bring people together and do exactly that.

— Senator Bernie Sanders

Brimming with insight and prophetic fire, this book is essential reading for policymakers, moral leaders, and everyday folk concerned about our nation.
— Eddie S. Glaude Jr., author of Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own

Our low unemployment rate is nothing to boast about if incomes can’t sustain life. We call Black people on the edge ‘poor’ and white people with the same too-low incomes ‘working class.’ Together, they are nearly half of America. . . . Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II’s inspired book shows that abandoning stereotypes can mobilize a biracial and multiethnic force for economic reform that is within reach.
— Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

As a prophet of social justice and change, Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II upholds the movement of interracial ‘moral fusion’ as the only way to pull America back from the complete economic and moral impoverishment of right-wing politics. A powerful and irresistible vision of another path for America.
— Representative Jamie Raskin

A must-read for anyone who wants to know how together we can climb to higher ground.
— Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

This powerful text is a welcome antidote to the persistent myths about poverty in America, and a guidebook for all of us who are working to end the crisis of poverty and low wages.
— Ben Wilkins, Keith Bullard, and Laurel Ashton, Union of Southern Service Workers

Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II is one of our nation’s most important prophets. In this book, he raises his clarion voice to amplify the cry of America’s poor, especially the invisible majority of impoverished white Americans.
— The Most Reverend Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324094876
ISBN-10: 1324094877
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: June 11th, 2024
Pages: 288
Language: English