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CHAPTER TWELVE. Autobiography of an Ex-White Man

Robert Paul Wolff

Subject Race and Ethnicity Studies » African American Studies

Key-Topics autobiography, education, universities

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631235163.2005.00015.x


This is the story of a journey – not in space or in time, but in understanding. It has been for me a journey both exhilarating and humbling: exhilarating because on this journey I have learned much that before was closed to me; humbling, because on this journey I discovered how blind I had been to a world that I thought I understood. Kierkegaard observes somewhere – I think it is in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript – that just as it is harder to jump into the air and land exactly on the spot from which you took off, so it is more difficult to become a Christian when you have the misfortune to have been born a Christian. I faced just such a problem with regard to the subject of race in America. Before I began my journey, I thought of myself as a sensitive, knowledgeable, politically committed advocate of racial justice. But as I took the first steps along the way, I began to realize that I understood little or nothing at all about that color-line called by W. E. B. Du Bois the problem of the twentieth century. So, rather like the conventional Christian who seeks to become truly a Christian, my task was to undergo a difficult process of reeducation and self-examination, in order to end up where I thought I had begun – as a committed advocate of racial justice. Perhaps I can take comfort from Socrates' teaching that the first step of the journey toward wisdom is the acknowledgment ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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