On Hate

09.10.13

Daniel Goldhagen’s Book Bag: Five on Prejudice

The author of the phenomenally successful Hitler’s Willing Executioners and the new book The Devil That Never Dies, about the resurgence of anti-Semitism, picks the most important books about prejudice.

1. The Nature of Prejudice

by Gordon W. Allport.

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The classic about prejudice that was the gold standard when published and remains so today. A comprehensive survey of the issues and brimming with insight.

2. Slavery and Social Death

by Orlando Patterson.

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A magisterial treatment of the worst systems of domination and exploitation that are embedded in prejudicial views about human beings, it reveals the complex interaction of prejudicial beliefs, social institutions and practice, and larger social and political systems. As a comparative study, it highlights the distinctively brutal features of American slavery.

3. Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak

by Jean Hatzfeld.

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A singular book presenting the testimonies of the Hutu mass murders of the Tutsi. They speak freely and reflect upon the character and depth of their dehumanizing and demonizing beliefs about Tutsi, how such prejudice was part of the common sense of Hutu society, how it was imparted to them, and how it led them to willingly slaughter defenseless men, women, and children because they conceived of the victims as snakes and demons. Like the willing German killers of Jews half a century before them, the power of prejudice was so great that, in the words of one of the Hutu, believing and saying what they did about the Tutsi, “it’s already sharpening the machete.”

4. War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War

by John W. Dower.

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Brings out the demonizing racism that mutually existed between Americans and Japanese during World War II, how it was manufactured, and how it motivated both sides during the war. Two important implications are how easy it is in the context of a bitter war to engender demonizing beliefs of the enemy and, because the wartime racism was not grounded in prior long-standing beliefs and was fantastical, how, unlike long-standing prejudices, they quickly dissipated after the conflict ended.

5. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–63

by Taylor Branch.

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A history of the herculean effort required to overcome deeply entrenched racism that was the foundation of the American South’s political, social, economic, and cultural systems. Shows the strategic and tactical complexity of mobilizing social and political forces to overcome segregation and break the barriers of racism. It especially well highlights the critical part that leadership can contribute, here in the person of Martin Luther King, for turning such tides.