Outliving the White Lie
A Southerner's Historical, Genealogical, and Personal Journey
An unflinching chronicle of one Mississippian’s reckoning with history
Part history, part memoir, Outliving the White Lie: A Southerner’s Historical, Genealogical, and Personal Journey charts conflicting narratives of American and southern identity through a blend of public, family, and deeply personal history. Author James Wiggins, who was raised in rural Mississippi, pairs thorough historical research with his own lived experiences. Outliving the White Lie looks squarely at the many untruths regarding the history and legacy of race that have proliferated among white Americans, from the misrepresentations of Black Confederates to the myth of a “postracial” America.
Though the US was ostensibly established to achieve freedom and shrug off an oppressive English monarchy, this mythology of the United States’ founding belies a glaring paradox—that this is a country whose foundation depends entirely on coercion and enslavement. How, then, could generations of decent people, people who valued individual liberty and personal autonomy, coexist within and alongside such a paradox? Historians suggest an answer: that these apparently dissonant points of view were reconciled in antebellum America by white citizens learning “to live with slavery by learning to live a lie.” The operative lie throughout American history and the lie underpinning the institution of slavery, they argue, has always been the fallacy of race—deliberately propagated tenets asserting skin color as the preeminent marker of identity and value. Wiggins takes accepted delusions to task in this moving reconciliation of southern living.
"Comprised of poignant, interwoven reflections on family, public history, and personal experience, Outliving the White Lie provides a sweeping history of the costs of slavery and white supremacy to the South and nation."- David R. Roediger, coeditor of The Construction of Whiteness: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Race Formation and the Meaning of a White Identity