We are taught that America is a society based on respect for the law and orderly procedures. That the Constitution stands as a safeguard of individual freedom, and the courts and the police are supposedly established to enforce the law. When a controversial issue arises in the American fabric, it is to be resolved not in the streets but through the democratic processes of elections. Yet, for blacks these liberal values have been turned into their opposites. The courts have most often stood silent in the face of racist violence or have turned their wrath against the victims, not the perpetrators; the police have protected the mob rather than the mobbed and have often either aided the lynchers or displayed amazing inability to identify them. Where race is concerned, legislative or judicial action to deal with controversial issues has often come late and been partial in nature, while white violence has continued to terrorize black Americans without hindrance.
In White Violence and Black Response: From Reconstruction to Montgomery, Herbert Shapiro explores the depths of violence generated by white racism and the irony of the American association with violence as a behavior of black people. Citing the nation’s political leadership, educational institutions, and news media as institutions that fail to educate Americans about the oppressive social conditions that have root in these criminal acts, Shapiro is able to expose the ways in which white supremacy operates within American institutions and the responses by black people in this powerful read.