February 1 is the beginning of Black History month in Canada and the U.S.

As a student in the 1960s I asked a black professor what he thought white people should do during what was then called “Negro History Week.”

His reply: “Keep your mouth shut and listen. Get your own shit together.”

“The Backsides of White Souls” is my attempt, having tried to listen, to get my shit together.


>> To read the essay click: “The Backsides of White Souls,” CNQ.

>> To read a dialogue about the essay’s writing and editing click: “Sleeping with the Author,” TNQ (The New Quarterly).


I know many souls that toss and whirl and pass, but none there are that intrigue me more than the Souls of White Folk . . . I see these souls undressed and from the back and side. I see the working of their entrails. I know their thoughts and they know that I know. This knowledge makes them now embarrassed, now furious. —W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Souls of White Folk,” 1920

“When it comes to fighting against white supremacy, it’s not just what you stand for, it’s who you sit with.”   –Jamaya Khan, Maclean’s, August 16, 2017

“Now, mind, I recognize no dichotomy between art and protest.” –Ralph Ellison, Paris Review, Spring, 1957


For further reading on the contribution of white women to racism read “The Women Behind White Power.” Better still, read the book on which it is based: Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy by Elizabeth Gillespie McRae.


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