“Macon Detornay is a suburban white boy possessed and politicized by black culture, and filled with rage toward white America. After moving to New York City for college, Macon begins robbing white passengers in his taxicab, setting off a manhunt for the black man presumed to be committing the crimes. When his true identity is revealed, Macon finds himself to be a celebrity and makes use of the spotlight to hold forth on the evils and invisibility of whiteness. Soon he launches the Race Traitor Project, a stress-addled collective that attracts guilty liberals, wannabe gangstas, and bandwagon riders from all over the country to participate in a Day of Apology—a day set aside for white people to make amends for four hundred years of oppression. The Day of Apology pushes New York City over the edge into an epic riot, forcing Macon to confront the depth of his own commitment to the struggle.”
I picked up this book on a quest to become more aware of race. This book did address many race issues, but it also relied heavily on black stereotypes. This book had three main characters that I did not like, identify with, or even want to generally know existed. So what this book lacked in my love of character it made up with a fantastic plot.
I really liked the way that the characters were held responsible for their actions and the plot was one that was disheartening. This responsibility is not something I am used to seeing with characters that rely so heavily on drugs that it is how the characters relate to each other and wouldn’t be close if there wasn’t the drugs. While Macon was a stoner and pretty much an idiot who didn’t think his actions through (how the hell did he make it into college?), he was a sort of underdog hero that I grew to root for.
The plot is a simple one. A white boy didn’t fit in with white boys so he hung out with black boys while hating himself. He is the epitome of white guilt. He started to see himself as being more black than white and found it amusing to do things that are stereotypically seen as black while being white (like armed robbery). He is then arrested for the crime and becomes a spokesman for white people dealing with the fact that they are white. While I would have loved his message if he were a real person, he was not one to actually use his power for good (or bad). This was also a great commentary on who people will follow and support with little to no critical thought on the matter until damage has been done (Dan Savage anyone?).
While this book lacked likeable characters for me, I am glad I read it. It was an eye opening book while it was a depressing book. In the end I took the message of “whiteness can’t be forgiven so don’t apologize, but keep your actions pure”. While I may be white, I hope to be Macon enough to not further cause harm to race relations. I am white, but I am not proud. Macon may not be real, but his struggle of not being a racist is in fact real.
3.5 stars out of 5. I would recommend this book especially to white people who are just starting to realize race is everywhere.
You can buy this book here.