Impressions of “Appalachian Black People: Identity, Location and Racial Barriers”
by Mark Creedon
This is an academic work and I enjoy academic works. This book is well researched and introduces the reader to several important concepts such as Critical Race Theory.
The positives about the book are a reflection of the academic rigor used to produce this work. The suggestions for improvement are intended for communicating to a less academic audience.
These impressions are written from the perspective of a white, non American, non academic man.
This paper does an excellent job of creating context. The charts comparing populations of whites, blacks and other races for Appalachia and all of the USA are not only informative they also help the reader to better understand and believe the conclusions about race and lack of opportunities.
For a non American, it was very interesting to know how many states contain the Appalachian region and how many people live within the Appalachian region.
It was interesting and important to be introduced to Critical Race Theory (CRT). The variables prejudice, discrimination, white privilege and powerlessness were well articulated. Their combined effects, decreased life chances, poverty and reduced quality of life for Blacks, are outlined well. The connection between powerlessness and the barriers to Blacks for purchasing land was particularly insightful.
The correlation between google searches using racially derogatory words to establish the level of prejudice in the Appalachian Region was quite creative.
The definition that you employed for racism (prejudice plus power) is one that is useful. Your book does not assert that whites are the only people in the Appalachian region who are prejudiced towards other races but rather you assert that due to their large numbers, history and the variables referenced above, they also have the power to use their prejudice to prevent Blacks in the region from escaping poverty and powerlessness. Well done.
The pictures of Blacks in the Appalachian region, contained in the Appendix, is a nice touch. This really humanizes the points of your book.
Suggested Improvements for Non Academic Readers
There are too many charts demonstration the racial breakdown of myriad counties in Appalachia. This may be necessary from an academic perspective but it is not as significant for the non academic as the Regional, State and National comparisons by race.
The concept that racism is a major American export is an intriguing idea but I could not find the empirical or even logical defense of this powerful view.
Your comparative and descriptive statistics are compelling but to capture people’s hearts as well as their minds your book needs more anecdotal stories that illustrate the points that you are making. You do have some but your book would be even more persuasive if it had more stories.
Most of your variables are well described as is their connection with poverty and powerlessness. However, it appears that institutional racism could use a more detailed description. It would also be useful to give more examples of it. On the other hand, maybe I just missed it.
The headings of the first chart in Appendix A are confusing. The reader can confuse national figures and percentages with those of the Appalachian Region.