The Strange Career of Racial Liberalism
Stanford University Press, 2022
What if, Joseph Darda asks, our desire to solve racism—with science, civil rights, antiracist literature, integration, and color blindness—has entrenched it further? In The Strange Career of Racial Liberalism, he traces the rise of liberal antiracism, showing how reformers’ faith in time, in the moral arc of the universe, has undercut future movements with the insistence that racism constitutes a time-limited crisis to be solved with time-limited remedies.
Most historians attribute the shortcomings of the civil rights era to a conservative backlash or to the fracturing of the liberal establishment in the late 1960s, but the civil rights movement also faced resistance from a liberal “frontlash,” from antiredistributive allies who, before it ever took off, constrained what the movement could demand and how it could demand it. Telling the stories of Ruth Benedict, Kenneth Clark, W. E. B. Du Bois, John Howard Griffin, Pauli Murray, Lillian Smith, Richard Wright, and others, Darda reveals how Americans learned to wait on time for racial change and the enduring harm of that trust in the clock.
“A riveting guide to why the grand movement demand for ‘Freedom now!’ was so often eclipsed by what Dr. King called the ‘tranquilizing drug of gradualism.’ As acute in its meditations on the nature of time as it is in its dissection of racial liberalism.” —David Roediger, author of The Sinking Middle Class: A Political History
“Darda’s powerful and elegant book places racial liberalism at the center of a national story about the endurance of racial subordination within a political system predicated on formal rights and equality. Provides essential bearings for our current moment of racial rebellion and reaction.” —Daniel Martinez HoSang, author of A Wider Type of Freedom: How Struggles for Racial Justice Liberate Everyone
Read an excerpt and purchase on the Stanford University Press website.
How White Men Won the Culture Wars: A History of Veteran America
University of California Press, 2021
“If war among the whites brought peace and liberty to the blacks,” Frederick Douglass asked in 1875, peering into the nation’s future, “what will peace among the whites bring?” The answer then and now, after civil war and civil rights: a white reunion disguised as a veterans’ reunion.
How White Men Won the Culture Wars shows how a broad contingent of white men––conservative and liberal, hawk and dove, vet and nonvet––transformed the Vietnam War into a staging ground for a post–civil rights white racial reconciliation. Conservatives could celebrate white vets as raceless embodiments of the nation. Liberals could treat them as minoritized heroes whose voices must be heard. Erasing Americans of color, Southeast Asians, and women from the war, white men with stories of vets on their minds could agree, after civil rights and feminism, that they had suffered and deserved more. From the POW/MIA and veterans’ mental health movements to Rambo and “Born in the U.S.A.,” they remade their racial identities for an age of color blindness and multiculturalism in the image of the Vietnam vet. No one wins in a culture war—except, Joseph Darda argues, white men dressed in army green.
“Original and persuasive. . . . A wide-ranging and provocative tour through the post-Vietnam cultural and political scene.”—The New Republic
“Simultaneously uplifting and disconcerting, How White Men Won the Culture Wars is recommended for all readers interested in US history, particularly those interested in looking at contemporary commonalities but more specifically the ways race has been used in culture wars. There simply is not another book quite like this, making Darda’s work groundbreaking.” —CHOICE
“How White Men Won the Culture Wars identifies a meta-phenomenon evocative of the existential precipice faced by Germany after its loss of the First World War, which is among the unsettling takeaways from this unique contribution to studies of American political culture.” —Peace and Change: A Journal of Peace Research
“A book of incandescent insight—a clear and persuasive account of how the misuse of wartime service has been coopted into a mythos of whiteness that ultimately threatens American democracy. This is required reading for anyone who wants to understand contemporary politics or the history of the recent past.” —Kathleen Belew, author of Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America
“An illuminating study of the whiteness of war culture, How White Men Won the Culture Wars deftly illustrates how stories about the Vietnam War transformed the Vietnam vet into a vessel for a post–civil rights white racial countermovement that appeared, on the surface, color-blind and race neutral.” —Yen Lê Espiritu, author of Body Counts: The Vietnam War and Militarized Refuge(es)
“Highly original, inventive, and even generative, this is one of the best books I have read in the past twenty-five years. It achieves impressive coherence around its provocative and forthright argument, but with no hint of moral grandstanding.” —David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness and Working toward Whiteness
“Joseph Darda is an incisive critic of the complex ways race and empire emerge in the figure of the veteran. How White Men Won the Culture Wars reveals how the ‘Vietnam vet’ was enlisted—and sometimes volunteered—to unite liberals and conservatives behind an aggrieved and universalizing white masculinity, reinscribing white supremacy as patriotism under the sign of trauma. An urgent and necessary work.” —Roy Scranton, author of Total Mobilization: World War II and American Literature
Read an excerpt and purchase on the University of California Press website.
Empire of Defense: Race and the Cultural Politics of Permanent War
University of Chicago Press, 2019
Empire of Defense tells the story of how the United States turned war into defense. When the Truman administration dissolved the Department of War in 1947 and formed the Department of Defense, it marked not the end of conventional war but, Joseph Darda argues, the introduction of new racial criteria for who could wage it––for which countries and communities could claim self-defense.
From the formation of the DOD to the long wars of the twenty-first century, the United States rebranded war as the defense of Western liberalism from first communism, then crime, authoritarianism, and terrorism. Officials learned to frame state violence against Asians, Black and brown people, Arabs, and Muslims as the safeguarding of human rights from illiberal beliefs and behaviors. Through government documents, news media, and the writing and art of Joseph Heller, June Jordan, Trinh T. Minh-ha, I. F. Stone, and others, Darda shows how defense remade and sustained a weakened color line with new racial categories (the communist, the criminal, the authoritarian, the terrorist) that cast the state’s ideological enemies outside the human of human rights. Amid the rise of anticolonial and antiracist movements the world over, defense secured the future of war and white supremacy.
“A compelling piece of truly interdisciplinary research. . . . Darda poses an important and timely challenge: to consider how racial structures and ideologies have led the United States to a situation of permanent war. . . . Darda forces political historians to reconsider familiar events and periods, such as the creation of the national security state in the aftermath of the Second World War. . . . Darda provides a thought-provoking counterpoint to those who would ignore the importance of race. His book provides another lens through which students can consider the larger sweep of post-1945 history across its political and cultural expressions.” ―Journal of American Studies
“Empire of Defense is an important and original contribution to studies of US warfare, empire-building, and racial modes of governance. This well-researched and meticulously written book suggests that permanent war is not antithetical to liberal governance—it is, in fact, part and parcel of it. As Darda powerfully reveals, the empire of defense hides its own violence in plain sight. His book is a cogent and much-needed critique of the machinations of US empire and how it justifies and authorizes its violence in racial and ethical terms.” ―Neda Atanasoski, author of Humanitarian Violence: The U.S. Deployment of Diversity
“In Empire of Defense, Darda shows how the idea of ‘defense’ became a logic for ongoing American war. This idea also fueled a racial ordering by defining who was, and who was not, worthy of defense. A fascinating account of the culture of war without end.” ―Mary L. Dudziak, author of War Time: An Idea, Its History, Its Consequences
Learn more and purchase on the University of Chicago Press website.