Dying of Whiteness
How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland
Can racial resentment have an impact on public health? In his explosive book Dying of Whiteness, psychiatrist, sociologist, and award-winning author Jonathan Metzl revealed how right-wing policies, rooted in white supremacy, have had destructive, often fatal consequences on our well-being. As the lopsided effects of the pandemic once again illuminate our inequities, he steers us toward a path of empathy, cooperation, and better health for all. Insightful and provocative, Metzl’s talks are a sorely needed intervention for a society confronting its biases and rebuilding anew.
“Dying of Whiteness unveils how the very policies marketed to white people as 'making America great again' end up harming the well-being of whites as a demographic group. This is must reading for anyone interested in understanding the current racial landscape of the United States.”— Jelani Cobb, Ira A. Lipman Professor of Journalism, Columbia Journalism School
Jonathan Metzl is a professor, psychiatrist, and prominent expert on gun violence and mental illness. He is widely known for being the founder of structural competency: a clinical approach that considers relationships among race, class, and symptom expression in health. For too long, clinical care has remained focused on the individual—in contrast, structural competency aims to reduce health inequalities at the level of neighborhoods, institutions, and policies. As a speaker, Metzl considers some of our most urgent issues—healthcare reform, education policy, guns, politics, American race relations, and diversity—and how we might approach them to create a kinder, more equitable society. Metzl’s most recent book, the critically acclaimed Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland, paints a blistering portrait of how right-wing policy-making in the United States has made life sicker, harder, and shorter—especially for the populations it claims to help. Falling life expectancies, slashed healthcare spending, and rising gun violence are just a few of the tangible results emerging from these laws. But why do people so often vote against their own interests? And how can we build a movement towards justice and compassion rather than chasing false ideals of supremacy? Metzl explores these questions with his signature psychiatric insight, lucid prose, and empathetic story-telling.
Named one of the most anticipated books of the year by Esquire, The Boston Globe, and Publishers Weekly, Dying of Whiteness was also the recipient of the 2020 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. “Jonathan Metzl chillingly shows how white identity permeates present-day policymaking outside of Washington,” writes The Washington Post. Meanwhile, The National Book Review calls the book “insightful and original,” while Kirkus Reviews dubs it a “provocative, instructive contribution to the literature of public health as well as of contemporary politics.” Metzl’s earlier books include The Protest Psychosis, a shocking chronicle of how associations between schizophrenia and Blackness emerged during the 1960s and 70s; Prozac on the Couch, a cultural history of treatments for depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses through a look at the reception of three “wonder drugs”; and Against Health, which explores how our health is more than an individual pursuit, but a culturally configured and socially sustained practice.
Metzl is the Frederick B. Rentschler II professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, and director of its Center for Medicine, Health, and Society. He is also the Research Director of The Safe Tennessee Project, a non-partisan, volunteer-based organization that is concerned with gun-related injuries and fatalities in America and in Tennessee. The winner of the 2020 APA Benjamin Rush Award for Scholarship, Vanderbilt Chancellor’s Award for Research, and a 2008 Guggenheim fellowship, Metzl has written extensively for medical, psychiatric, and popular publications about some of the most hot-button issues facing America and the world. Metzl has also appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, C-SPAN, CNN, AM Joy, PBS’s Amanpour & Co, HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, as well as written opinion pieces for The New York Times, The Washington Post, VICE, Politico, and others.