October 4, 2000
New Book Chronicles Whitworth Professor's Acclaimed 'Prejudice Across America' Study Tour
The harsh reality of race relations in America hit a group of Whitworth College students between the eyes on the day they visited the south side of Chicago and schools were closed due to gang violence, recalls Whitworth College Psychology Professor Jim Waller in his new book, Prejudice Across America.
The book, released this month by University Press of Mississippi, chronicles Waller's 1998 Prejudice Across America study tour and the journey he and his students made toward understanding the state of racism and redemption in the U.S. Written to appeal to a broad audience, the book provides history and analysis of race relations in the eight cities visited during the 21-day tour as well as reflections from Waller, his students and the people they met along the way.
"These lucky students profiled in the fascinating pages [of the book], with Waller serving as their intrepid guide, studied the ugly face of racial prejudice and learned first-hand the power of redemption," writes University of New Orleans History Professor Douglas Brinkley in his review of Prejudice Across America. Brinkley, whose road course and critically acclaimed book The Majic Bus provided inspiration for Waller's study tour, adds, "While historical reflection makes up a good part of Prejudice Across America, the most moving passages, for me, occur when Waller explains the students' reactions to this intense educational odyssey."
The students' reflections also provide a revealing glimpse into what their generation understands and thinks about race relations in America. The students, Waller said, came face to face with a reality that many of their peers across the country only understand in the abstract - that the struggle for civil rights and equality is still ongoing and that issues of prejudice continue to have an impact upon every level of American society.
Waller first led the Prejudice Across America study tour in 1996 and is planning another trip in January 2001. The 1998 tour drew national attention and was recognized by President Clinton's Initiative on Race as one of "100 Promising Practices" nationwide designed to promote racial reconciliation.
The three-week railroad tour stops in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, Birmingham, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Along the way, Waller and his students visit places such as a Los Angeles museum focusing on the World War II internment of Japanese Americans, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Atlanta and a poverty-ridden housing project on the south side of Chicago. The fear and frustration students saw in the faces of those Chicago families as they rode out the latest wave of gang violence was especially eye opening, Waller says.
"Obviously, spending a day in the inner city isn't the same as living there day in and day out, but the students were reminded that they had some real advantages in life, and they got a sense of the hopelessness of people who don't have those same advantages," Waller says. "I encourage them to not let the tour be the end, but to make it a beginning of a search to find ways they can live and make an impact in an increasingly diverse world."
Waller joined the Whitworth College faculty in 1989 and has been recognized for outstanding teaching and research in the areas of social psychology, racism, and holocaust and genocide studies. He also is the author of Face to Face: The Changing State of Racism Across America (1998).
Founded in 1890, Whitworth is a private, liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The college enrolls 2,000 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs at its 200-acre Spokane, Wash., campus.
Jim Waller, (509) 777-4424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Greg Orwig, director of communications, (509) 777-4580 or email@example.com.