The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book Notes of a White Black Woman

Notes of a White Black Woman

Race, Color, Community Judy Scales-Trent
  • Copyright: 1995
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 206 pages
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-01430-2
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-02124-9

Hardcover Edition: $49.95Add to Cart

Paperback Edition: $29.95Add to Cart

“[Judy Scales-Trent] has only two choices. She can accept these crazy definitions and be degraded and marginalized into almost-nothingness, or she can take a look at the narrow margin where she lives and turn it into another set of lines, a river and two shores, or a crossroads where many highways intersect. Scales-Trent hangs out in the margin of things. But she’s taken these margins, these borderlines, and turned them into deep, rich countries of her own.”
“These stunningly powerful essays call upon experiences utterly personal yet distinctly universal; they examine flawed constructs that have evolved to set people apart from one another—fundamental notions about how a person is supposed to look or act based upon arbitrary groupings. With a goal no less compelling than building what she terms ‘a new kinds of community,’ Scales-Trent proves to be a teacher of remarkable humanity and great clarity of thought.”
“In this powerful collection of life-writing, we see our sister coming home to herself and to us. In doing so, she places the ‘color complex’ squarely on the table. We owe it to her to join the dialogue.”

While the "one-drop rule" in the United States dictates that people with any African ancestry are black, many black Americans have white skin. Notes of a White Black Woman is one woman's attempt to describe what it is like to be a "white" black woman and to live simultaneously inside and outside of both white and black communities.

Law professor Judy Scales-Trent begins by describing how our racial purity laws have operated over the past four hundred years. Then, in a series of autobiographical essays, she addresses how race and color interact in relationships between men and women, within families, and in the larger community. Scales-Trent ultimately explores the question of what we really mean by "race" in this country, once it is clear that race is not a tangible reality as reflected through color.

Scales-Trent uses autobiography both as a way to describe these issues and to develop a theory of the social construction of race. She explores how race and color intertwine through black and white families and across generations; how members of both black and white communities work to control group membership; and what happens to relations between black men and women when the layer of color is placed over the already difficult layer of race. She addresses how one can tell—and whether one can tell—who, indeed, is "black" or "white." Scales-Trent also celebrates the richness of her bicultural heritage and shows how she has revised her teaching methods to provide her law students with a multicultural education.

Judy Scales-Trent teaches at the SUNY-Buffalo School of Law.

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