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 But what makes it progressive in Chehade’s case . . .is the fact that an Arab American has come forth to address the sick condition . . . of racism and thought-patterns of those immigrants and people of color who adopt the same attitudes of Whiteness. 



Books by Carol Chehade


Big Little White Lies: Our Attempt to White-Out America

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Ugly Truths:  An Essay 

on Carol Chehade’s Big Little White Lies

By Dennis Leroy Moore


“Truth is what is – not what should be. Truth is what is.” -- Lenny Bruce

During the heavy Spring of 2001 in NYC, I was deep in the midst of editing my first feature film called As an Act of Protest, an odyssey of a young Black actor in NY (America) who struggles to become sane, whole, and healthy as the effects and acts of racism and colonization spin their web around the barn of his mind; making it hard for the young artist to concentrate on his art and throw off that mortal coil called Racism. As all enlightened souls know, the artist’s job is not only to express and explore his own personal pains, demons, and joys, but unravel and hold a mirror up to the nature of his society – exposing and exorcising, to some degree, the ills of his society. 

Racism is the greatest ill of our society and has been for some time. The problem, when either discussing it, or expressing its caustic effects in a work of art or analysis is that it often eludes us, pushes buttons, and lets those responsible for it off the hook. As the poet throughout centuries has attempted to express and define and capture that mystery called Love, so have many visionary and progressive artists and activists done the same in their attempts at tracking down and capturing the facets of racism, “racial-thinking,” and that bizarre, odd, and highly impenetrable existence most people of color refer to as “Whiteness” or quite simply, “being white.”  

Now, unfortunately, most of us never see or have an opportunity to confront the opposite side of the coin in regards to racism and oppression. Meaning, we usually see the effects of the disease on its victim – in this case, obviously, Black people. But what about the carriers of this disease – White people? When do they come to the table ready to deal with their whiteness and their psychosis?

Big Little White Lies is the first recent major attempt at getting White people and all those non-black people of color to examine themselves and all their spoiled vegetables that lurk in the freezer of their souls. This stunning book -- part psycho-social analysis, history lesson, and manifesto for a new age – forces white people to confront themselves and the legacy of their racism. It is one of the most important works on racism to have been written in this new century, and more importantly, an overwhelmingly honest portrait of the skewered logic and actual functioning of racism in contemporary America. All the more stunning because it was written by an Arab-American who openly admits to the racism of her own people, thereby being able to identify – quite painfully – with the foundation of White racist attitudes and thinking.

I first read Lies about a year ago. At first I was extremely suspicious, since the age we live in pumps out more and more pop-psychology books on racism as if to imply that books will solve the problem that we all live with. Most books about racism or anything having to do with the treatment of Black people are poorly written and are regurgitated clichés honed and created from writers, scholars, and activists who are now dead. Literally and symbolically. No new confessions or understandings or questions are coming about. No one is bringing anything new to this tired and boring assembly. Carol Chehade’s Big Little Whites Lies was a perfect antidote to all of this.

Thirty-two years of age and a native of Detroit, Carol Chehade writes straight from the gut, in a detached, simple, and matter-of-fact way. This doesn’t imply that she is clinical or passionless in any way. No, not all, in fact the body of the text itself is quite personal and suspended in the air with a spiritual kick; a fervent, loving and dynamic force that forces the reader constantly to ask and question his or her own racism. She writes almost pragmatically without any corny airs of sentimentality.

 Chehade wants us to love and demands the reader look into himself and see his portrait, see his Whiteness for what it really is.  Chehade breaks the monotony from time to time, as writers seldom do, by admitting her own weaknesses, faults, and hang ups as a person of color who clearly has seen the world through a white man’s lens. By her doing so, and after reading her book, I hope others – particularly – white people will do the same.

The book starts off abruptly with an introduction titled “ABCRacismXYZ,” in which Chehade directly implies that racism is taught as simply and innocently as a child learns the alphabet.  The ritual of being initiated into a racist is comparable to the small child who wakes up every Saturday morning to immerse himself in his personal ritual of watching morning cartoons. It is that simple, and that frightening. The white child who is instantly indoctrinated into a racial reality that has more grounding in a television show than it does in real life. His or her perceived superiority over Black people will for the rest of his life give him a false sense of entitlement, righteousness, and preferential treatment. 

Chehade states chillingly that “a racial reality is ironically unreal because it is based on counterfeit myths.” Her point, which she eloquently goes off to explain, is that we live in a world that is mired in deep lies enforced and created by Whites who refuse to admit their sins of the past and the present, and who easily turn a blind eye to the truths of the current state of race relations – despite the fact that slavery in America has been abolished a long time ago, which is what Whites always use as a defense not to confront the latent racism in their hearts and the aftermath of the past, as we speed on into a new 21st century…

Lies is broken down into eight chapters, lasts barely two hundred pages, and moves with the speed and urgency of a runaway horse -- a staple of Chehade’s writing style. Chehade constantly invokes the surreal and schizophrenic aspects of “Whiteness,” white superiority and racism. As provocative of a subject matter as it is, the book is richly constructed into an almost poetic-menagerie of dense psychological journeys regarding the ambiguity of Whiteness and the various definitions and reasoning of racist attitudes towards Black people. While this may sound like a bit of a mouthful, the book is not as convoluted as it may seem.

In the very succinct opening chapter “Jim Crow’s Gene,” Chehade states: “Every single non-black person is a racist.” Ouch. And from this opening sentence, the rest of the book spills out like a neurotic explosion – espousing man’s sins in a dark confessional in the church of our world.  Chehade’s essays break down racist thinking and Whiteness to a science. The most interesting aspect of the launching chapter is what Chehade refers to as the “seven deadly forms of racism.” 

She tells us of the different types of racists that exist and assures white people and non-black people of color that they are surely part of at least one of these deadly-groups of racists – ranging from your typical Democratic Liberal type to the White Militants who aggressively oppose anything black or not-white. Chehade deftly paints us a vivid picture of White people who are in denial and suffering from their own delusions and lies of grandeur. 

Hitler once said “Tell a lie enough and people will believe it.” This is obviously the case with White people – who intrinsically do believe that they are superior to blacks and to tell them any different would be to disrupt their entire system. The sickness and psychosis of racism that Chehade writes about reminds me of James Baldwin’s entire perception of racism and Whiteness in America. In Baldwin’s classic Blues for Mister Charlie - he sets the nearly four hour epic play in the heart of America in a place called “Plaguetown.” The plague is obviously racism and Baldwin tried to approach the problems and attitudes birthed out of racism as diseases that need to be dealt with. 

To her credit and tight observation, Chehade has strewn throughout the book – phrases and newly-coined terms that suggest the mental illness and disease-faceted aspect of racism: “racial rehabilitation,”  “therapeutic artillery,” “mentally shackled,” “poisonous,” “contagious air of racism,” “sickness,” “psychologically stay live,” “condition,” and so on and so forth. It is this aspect of her analysis – whether in discussing sexual attitudes towards Black people or how non-Black people of color & immigrants align themselves with the White power structure – that lends it a fertile seed of revolutionary thought. 

Of course DuBois, Fanon – and thinkers of that ilk – brought this to our attention decades ago. In DuBois’s situation – an entire century ago. But what makes it progressive in Chehade’s case – and in the times we are living in – is the fact that an Arab American has come forth to address the sick condition we are living in and admits the double-edged sword of racism and thought-patterns of those immigrants and people of color who adopt the same attitudes of Whiteness. 

With war in Iraq reaching a peak, the inner racial war in America still drives strong, although nearly un-acknowledged or dealt with. All people of color have an internal war in this country and nearly all of them end up defending the honor, legacy, and sick pride of the White man. They want to be as “spiritually bankrupt” (Chehade’s term) as he is…

Chehade believes that white people need to be made aware of who they are and confront their racism – Baldwin believed in the same thing. It is not a matter of White people saving Black people or civilizing the natives, it is a matter of civilizing one’s self, saving one’s own soul. White people must understand this. Because until the carriers of the disease get better, no one else will… 

Lies is packed with information, anecdotes, personal memories and analysis, and a strong determined voyage into trying to understand and define Whiteness. Chehade makes it clear that Whiteness is a state of mind, as Malcolm X once said, and that being white has less to do with skin color and more to do with how one thinks about and acts towards Black people. It is much too complicated and thick to get into here – all the more reason why people should actually read the book as opposed to my response on it.

But I could not help thinking how troubled most people will be are when they confront the fact that Whiteness is an existential state, an inferno of the mind – devoid of logic, heart, or true passion. Sartre even admitted this when he became more and more familiar with Fanon and his writings. White people and non-black people of color owe it to themselves to plumb their depths and grow up. One cannot appreciate their strengths and value, if they cannot express and digest their weaknesses, ills, and demons. 

Thus, when Chehade writes, “Whiteness is a very powerful and addictive hallucinogenic that negatively alters our racial reality,” she must be prepared to be attacked and accused of being racist towards whites, etc. Chehade, I’m sure, embraces the jeers of alienation and contempt from nearly every corner for example, because it only proves her point about how deeply Whiteness is embedded in our train of thought…

In an intimate panel discussion at NYC’s Brecht Forum, a so-called Marxist school, I moderated a discourse on Big Little White Lies to a room of middle-aged Marxists who refused to accept the fact that Whiteness or racism could even be discussed without bringing up Capitalism. That is the best defense Whites use to shield away from personal responsibility. The “system” (Capitalism) is not some abstract beast – no, it is a very real thing – created by real people. More specifically, it was adapted and built upon by White people who re-invigorated and took it to new heights. The denial of Whiteness and how it functions and the fact that it does exist is exactly what Chehade would refer to as the Third and Seventh type of racists: Whites who feel they have no accountability for racism because they don’t think that they actively contribute to racism and Whites who confuse not thinking of race as an indicator of not being racist.

Lies brings up a great deal of questions and problems that must be explored and dealt with. Her chapter “The Colorless Immigrant,” for instance, is an essay that every single non-black person of color should read. In it, the neurosis, fears, and anxieties of non-black people of color are expressed and their desire to be included in that sought-after category of Whiteness is astounding. Other chapters dig into the influence and perception of Black men, like the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan who are feared by Whites, meditations on beauty and Blackness, the psychosis and neurosis of interracial sex and desire, and even a discourse on the minstrelization of Black American culture and creativity.

Although I appreciated this chapter “From Hymn to Hip Hop to…,” I found it severely underwritten and not as anarchic or challenging as the rest of Chehade’s earlier analysis. In a way, it seemed that she had run out of steam by this point in the book. Although she makes up for it in her conclusion (“Un-Conclusion,” as she describes it), I only wished that she had written more about the even more damaging attitudes and patronization by whites towards Black fine arts and the entire gulf that lingers between the two understandings of the well-worn European ideals of art and culture and Classical Africa’s. 

I also wished that Chehade made it clearer that Black American culture is American culture, and that that fact only is part of White people’s contempt and reason for self-hatred. She makes this clear, however, in a different way – by telling us of the overwhelming amount of love Black people have given to themselves, their country, their spirits, and yes, even to the White man. It does not take a brain scientist to recognize the fact that White people need Black people in order to learn how to love… 

Racism is an open-ended conundrum. It lingers long after it has been physically seen or perceived. It operates on the level of some strange cancer from another world. Carol Chehade does not provide any solutions or quick answers and that is not what’s wrong about her book, but what is gracious, powerful, and striking about it. She writes:

“Racism has not been miraculously resolved with the last chapter of this book; therefore, until we resolve racism, the issue remains unconcluded. If the greatest Black and White revolutionaries couldn’t end racism, then I certainly can’t by myself.” She goes on to write, quite eloquently:

We must inoculate ourselves with the spirits of John Brown, Thaddeus Stevens, Elijah Parrish Lovejoy, Thomas Wentworth Higgenson, Lacertian Mott, and Lydia Maria Child. White who vehemently believed that every time we hammer one nail in the coffin that buries Black justice, we are hammering two more nails into our own coffin.

Amiri Baraka said that the people must support the artist. It is the artist who brings us prophecies and visions. If he is not supported, then we will have no prophecies and shall see no visions. It is no surprise that poets were once referred to as seers. Whether singer or religious prophet, radical or ballet dancer, activist or actor – the artist/activists job, in order to fulfill his duty as a revolutionary, must always tell the truth. Free us from lies and cliches, stereotypes, and wicked forged realities imposed upon us by the very people who seek to destroy us. 

Michael Moore, the brilliant documentary filmmaker, said – upon receiving his Oscar award – that we are living in fictitious times. It is imperative that the new wave of artists and the emerging generation of revolutionaries seek to strip us of all that’s phony and deadly. Tell the truth and tell it how you see it. I commend Carol Chehade for risking something and taking a chance. This new generation needs poets of Truth such as Chehade and we need to support and love each other, because Lord knows no one else will. 

Chehade has done something unpopular and dangerous in this age of false acceptance and “blurred” racial existences. She has taken us back to the roots of Modern Man’s psychosis. She has chosen to take a stab at something most people want to run from – including those in the so-called Arab community who tried to keep Chehade and her essays at arms length, refusing to accept responsibility of their own White-adopted attitudes and inherent racism towards Black people, which they carried over from the sand of the Middle East. She has plumbed her depths and encourages us all to do the same.

We will always prefer distorted truths, History rather than The-story. A man’s view over a woman’s. A White lie over a Black truth. And as long as we sideline and sit on the fence of what’s real regarding the truths of Racism and Whiteness, we will continue to perish and allow our souls to die a little each day. We’re all going to die, why help it? Why don’t people want to be free and healthy and liberated? Because we need the formulas and lies in order to satisfy our prejudices. 

The truth about how people really feel and act towards Black people is always challenging. The truth behind anything always scares us. Chehade sites the book of Genesis, where God commands: “And let there be light.” She interprets this to mean truth, not actual rays of sunlight. We must wake up and see the light behind it all – the truths that fester in the dark. And in order to see the light, we must dive into all that is dark, abysmal. However, this of course is the problem. A movie about racism? God no! A ballet on Slavery? No way! A book that exposes our attempt to White-out America? For heaven’s sake – NO!

We are all afraid of the dark. Which is the primary reason why we cannot appreciate the light or see the truth and accept it when it is given to us. It is like the man who dropped his keys on one side of the street, but looked for them on the other side. Why? Because the light was better over there. It was safer.

Lies is not only a wake up call, but a warning to our world. The problem is, of course, most people do not want to rise from their sweet slumbers…

D.H.Lawrence said it best, perhaps – when he said that we go through life with parasols over our heads, with a painted sky on the underside of them. Once in while we look up and admire the pretty view. When an artist sneaks up on us and cuts a hole in our parasol so that we can see the real world – we collapse and are traumatized because we are not used to the real world, the ugly truths that surround us. As soon as the hole is made, we instantly sew it back up and continue looking at the painted sky, instead of the real one. Anything real and truthful is going to be met with resistance.  So is the case with Carol Chehade’s soulful and penetrating book.

Chehade wrote: “Pain is felt by all. It’s usually deep; often inexpressible, but always soul defining.”

     Which is exactly how I feel about Big Little White Lies.

DLM Brooklyn, NY ©Copyright March 31, 2003  (Revised and re-edited April 18, 2003)


Carol Chehade, writer and activist living in New York City, has written a controversial book en titled, Big Little White Lies: Our Attempt to White-Out America.  Born to Arab parents, and raised in Detroit, Chehade is among the self-described "colorless immigrants who choose to dye our chameleon-like racial and ethnic traits in order to blend in with Whiteness." 

Her stance on race is as complex as her multifaceted life experiences as a child of immigrants, whose fair skin and light hair belie her North African/Middle Eastern roots   Further information can be found at NEHMARCHE PUBLISHING 244 Fifth Ave. 2nd Floor, Suite F248 NY, NY 

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 Race, Racism & Reparations

By J. Angelo Corlett

Having supplanted "race" with a well-defined concept of ethnicity, the author then analyzes the nature and function of racism. Corlett argues for a notion of racism that must encompass not only racist beliefs but also racist actions, omissions, and attempted actions. His aim is to craft a definition of racism that will prove useful in legal and public policy contexts. Corlett places special emphasis on the broad questions of whether reparations for ethnic groups are desirable and what forms those reparations should take: land, money, social programs? He addresses the need for differential affirmative action programs and reparations policies—the experiences (and oppressors) of different ethnic groups vary greatly. Arguments for reparations to Native and African Americans are considered in light of a variety of objections that are or might be raised against them. Corlett articulates and critically analyzes a number of possible proposals for reparations

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”

 His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian

Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls

By Dorothy Sterling

Dorothy Sterling’s biography of Robert Smalls is Captain of the Planter: The Story of Robert Smalls (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1958). In most history books, the contributions of Negroes during the Civil War and Reconstructions are ignored. Robert Smalls was one of the heroes who is rarely mentioned. He was a Negro slave who stole a ship from the Confederates, served on it with the Union Army with distinction, and finally served several terms in Congress.

All this was accomplished against the handicaps first of slavery, then of the prejudice of the Union Army, and finally of the Jim Crow laws, which eventually conquered him. Besides its value in contradicting the history book insinuation that the Negro was incapable of political enterprise and that the South was right in imposing Jim Crow laws, Captain of the Planter is an exciting adventure story. Captain Smalls’ escape from slavery and his battle exploits make interesting reading, and the style is fast moving.—Barbara Dodds / Legacy of Robert Smalls

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Andrew Johnson: The 17th President, 1865-1869

By Annette Gordon-Reed

Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth man to ascend to the highest office in the land, is generally regarded by historians as among the weakest presidents. Gordon-Reed has no intention of moving Johnson up in rank (“America went from the best to the worst in one presidential term,” she corroborates). So this is no reputation rescue. Gordon-Reed, author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (2008), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, takes as her task explaining why we should look anew at such a disastrous chief executive. She reasons he is worth looking at, though her reasoning yields a far from sympathetic look. In a short biography, all bases can be covered, but the author is still left to exercise the tone of a personal essay, which this author accomplishes brilliantly. Her personal take on Johnson is that his inability to remake the country after it was torn apart rested on his deplorable view of black Americans.

 In practical terms, his failure derived from his stubborn refusal to compromise with Congress in the abiding post-Lincoln controversy over who was to supervise the Reconstruction, the executive or the legislative branch. A failure, yes, but more than that, a failure at an extremely critical time in American history.Booklist

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Related files: Ugly Truths    Why We Owe Them     Big Little White Lies  The Racial View of 9/11  Slave Reparation Bill of 1867   Special Order 15

Legacy of Robert Smalls