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'Being White in Philly' sparks racial debate in the City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia Magazine's cover story
Philadelphia Magazine's cover story "Being White In Philly."
Philadelphia Magazine

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In the City of Brotherly Love, there's little love for a magazine article that's stirred up race relations. Philadelphia Magazine recently published a cover story, "Being White in Philly."

Writer Bob Huber, who's white, published anonymous interviews with other white people around the city for their candid views on race. "I wanted to look at is how white people relate to people in the inner-city or don't relate to them," he explained at an forum hosted by the magazine.

For example, Huber shares the story of one resident he only identifies as John.

He tells me about the time, a Saturday afternoon more than 10 years ago, when he came downstairs to his living room to find a stranger had come in through his front door — “It was a n***er boy, a big tall kid. He wanted money.”

It’s a strange moment, not only because of the ugly word, but because of John’s calm in delivering it, as if it is merely fact, one that explains the vast changes in his world.

Unsurprisingly, the article set off a firestorm. Philly's mayor Michael Nutter, who's black, said the story was disgusting, and called for an investigation into the issues it raised.

But if the reaction to these views is so angry, how do you tackle race issues without making people afraid to say things openly?


David Wall Rice, a professor at Morehouse College in Atlanta where he specializes in race and identity.

Vilma Ortiz, professor sociology and Chicano/Chicana studies at UCLA.