Cover image for Dying of whiteness : how the politics of racial resentment is killing America's heartland / Jonathan M. Metzl.
Dying of whiteness : how the politics of racial resentment is killing America's heartland / Jonathan M. Metzl.
Title Variants:
How the politics of racial resentment is killing America's heartland
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Basic Books, 2019.

Physical Description:
viii, 341 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Dying of whiteness -- Missouri -- The cape -- Risk -- Interview : I can't just make it go away -- The man card -- Interview : we gotta take up arms -- Preventative medicine -- Interview : the biggest heart -- What was the risk? -- Interview : the whys and what-ifs -- Trigger warnings -- Tennessee -- Unaffordable -- Cost -- In the name of affordable care -- Focus -- Socialism -- Everybody -- De-progressive -- The numbers tell the story -- Kansas -- Beneath the surface -- There's no place like home -- The Kansas experiment -- Interview : a downward cycle -- Austerity -- Interview : a bad rap -- The schools -- Interview : the race card -- Congestive heart failure -- Interview : no matter what he does -- Millions of millions -- The castle doctrine.
"With the rise of the Tea Party and the election of Donald Trump, many middle- and lower-income white Americans threw their support behind conservative politicians who pledged to make life great again for people like them. But as Dying of Whiteness shows, the right-wing policies that resulted from this white backlash put these voters' very health at risk--and, in the end, threaten everyone's well-being. Physician and sociologist Jonathan M. Metzl travels across America's heartland seeking to better understand the politics of racial resentment and its impact on public health. Interviewing a range of Americans, he uncovers how racial anxieties led to the repeal of gun control laws in Missouri, stymied the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, and fueled massive cuts to schools and social services in Kansas. Although such measures promised to restore greatness to white America, Metzl's systematic analysis of health data dramatically reveals they did just the opposite: these policies made life sicker, harder, and shorten in the very populations they purported to aid. Thus, white life expectancies fell, gun suicides soared, and school dropout rates rose. Powerful, searing, and sobering, Dying of Whiteness ultimately demonstrates just how much white America would benefit by emphasizing cooperation, rather than chasing false promises of supremacy"--Publisher's description.


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
362.1089 MET Book Adult General Collection

On Order



A physician reveals how right-wing backlash policies have mortal consequences -- even for the white voters they promise to help

Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Esquire and the Boston Globe

In the era of Donald Trump, many lower- and middle-class white Americans are drawn to politicians who pledge to make their lives great again. But as Dying of Whiteness shows, the policies that result actually place white Americans at ever-greater risk of sickness and death.

Physician Jonathan M. Metzl's quest to understand the health implications of "backlash governance" leads him across America's heartland. Interviewing a range of everyday Americans, he examines how racial resentment has fueled progun laws in Missouri, resistance to the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, and cuts to schools and social services in Kansas. And he shows these policies' costs: increasing deaths by gun suicide, falling life expectancies, and rising dropout rates. White Americans, Metzl argues, must reject the racial hierarchies that promise to aid them but in fact lead our nation to demise.

Author Notes

Jonathan M. 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 the author of several books and a prominent expert on gun violence and mental illness. He hails from Kansas City, Missouri, and lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this groundbreaking work, Metzl, physician and director of the Vanderbilt Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, demonstrates the "mortal trade-offs" white Americans make when they vote with the goal of restoring their racial privilege and end up endorsing "political positions that directly harm their own health and well-being." Metzl methodically and adeptly marshals statistical evidence that policies promising to bolster white Americans' status have instead made life "sicker, harder, and shorter" for all Americans. He finds that, in Missouri, under the lax gun laws white voters favored, white men became 2.38 times more likely than men of other races to die by firearm suicide. In Tennessee, opposition to the Affordable Care Act "cost every single white resident of the state 14.1 days of life"; many white Tennesseans, Metzl writes, "voiced a willingness to die, literally, rather than embrace a law that gave minority or immigrant persons more access to care." A "Tea Party-fueled" gutting of school funding in Kansas greatly increased the number of people dropping out of high school, which "correlates with nine years of lost life expectancy." This tightly constructed analysis of the unexpected consequences of American political behavior exemplifies excellence in argumentative writing, on a topic of cultural significance. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta, the Zoe Pagnamenta Agency. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Dying of Whitenessp. 1
Part 1 Missouri
The Capep. 23
Riskp. 35
Interview: I Can't Just Make It Go Awayp. 55
The Man Cardp. 61
Interview: We Gotta Take Up Armsp. 79
Preventative Medicinep. 83
Interview: The Biggest Heartp. 91
What Was the Risk?p. 95
Interview: The Whys and What-Ifsp. 111
Trigger Warningsp. 115
Part 2 Tennessee
Unaffordablep. 121
Costp. 127
In the Name of Affordable Carep. 131
Focusp. 139
Socialismp. 147
Everybodyp. 157
De-Progressivep. 165
The Numbers Tell the Storyp. 171
Part 3 Kansas
Beneath the Surfacep. 191
There's No Place Like Homep. 193
The Kansas Experimentp. 199
Interview: A Downward Cyclep. 207
Austerityp. 209
Interview: A Bad Rapp. 219
The Schoolsp. 223
Interview: The Race Cardp. 237
Congestive Heart Failurep. 241
Interview: No Matter What He Doesp. 263
Millions of Millionsp. 265
Conclusion: The Castle Doctrinep. 269
Acknowledgmentsp. 285
Notesp. 289
Indexp. 331