Inheritance: An Autobiography of Whiteness (Paperback)
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In this unflinching, honest narrative, an award-winning journalist discovers his family’s heritage as slave owners in the South and grapples openly with his whiteness to inspire others to do the same.
"Bracing, candid, and rueful." —Kirkus
Baynard Woods thought he had escaped the backwards ways of the South Carolina he grew up in, a world defined by country music, NASCAR, and the confederacy. He’d fled the South long ago, transforming himself into a politically left-leaning writer and educator.
Then he was accused of discriminating against a Black student at a local university. How could I be racist? he wondered. Whiteness was a problem, but it wasn’t really his problem. He taught at a majority Black school and wrote essays about education and Civil Rights.
But it was his problem. Working as a reporter, it became clear that white supremacy was tearing the country apart. When a white kid from his hometown massacred nine Black people in Charleston, Woods began to delve into his family’s history—and the ways that history has affected his own life.
When he discovered that his family—both the Baynards and the Woodses—collectively claimed ownership of more than 700 people in 1860, Woods realized his own name was a confederate monument. Along with his name, he had inherited privilege, wealth, and all the lies that his ancestors passed down through the generations.
In this gripping and perceptive memoir, Woods takes us along on his journey to understand how race has impacted his life. Unflinching and uninhibited, Inheritance explores what it means to reckon with whiteness in America today and what it might mean to begin to repair the past.
About the Author
Baynard Woods is an award-winning writer and journalist based in Baltimore. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Oxford American Magazine, and many other publications. He is coauthor, with Brandon Soderberg, of I Got a Monster: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Corrupt Police Squad.
"[INHERITANCE is] a guide to better understand the white privilege that many may not realize is embedded in their pasts."—Statehouse Report
A journalist reckons with the free passes and blinkers his White privilege has bestowed on him. . . This book is an effort to uncover what benefits he reaped from this unthinking, and he’s as honest as he can be on the matter without lapsing into self-pity or false proclamations of allyship. . . rooted in fine storytelling. . . Bracing, candid, and rueful.—Kirkus
“Brilliant...Inheritance delivers the kind of first-person account needed to fully understand whiteness. Woods seamlessly travels from generation to generation to explore his family history. This book is the perfect tool for explaining the other side of critical race theory. Both Black and white America will benefit from the narrative carefully woven by Woods. Both Black and white America will benefit from the narrative carefully woven by Woods. This will be one of the most important books of the year, I highly recommend it.”—D. Watkins, New York Times bestselling author of The Beast Side, The Cook Up, and We Speak for Ourselves
“[Told] with an unsparing eye and engaging style. . .Inheritance is an intimate, revelatory study in accountability and repair; I was rocked by this book’s candor and the force of its home truths."—Michelle Orange, author of Pure Flame
"A brilliant examination of white identity—searching, searing, ruthlessly honest, painful to read, yet impossible to put down. This is an essential book."—Wil S. Hylton, author of Vanished
“Unexpected, thrilling, and achingly, heartbreakingly beautiful, this is a book about the absolute moral imperative for every person—specifically every white person—to take responsibility for not only what we do, but for who we are.”
—Michael Patrick F. Smith, author of The Good Hand
“In this work of furious honesty, Mr. Woods has truly set a new standard for the bravery and humility that is required to understand what whiteness is, and how we might make a better world without it."
—Martin Desmond Roe, Oscar-winning director of Two Distant Strangers
"Inheritance is an honest, powerful account of a white person actually examining how whiteness works in their own life. We need more of this." —DeRay Mckesson, activist and author of On the Other Side of Freedom