A Personal Preface from Cooper Thompson
I used to think that this was ‘‘my book,’’ but I can no longer do that. Since my
first inklings of this project about twenty years ago, I’ve changed the way I
think about this book. I came to realize that I didn’t own this book, but that it
was the work of many people and that ownership resided somewhere else, if
at all.
The first step in that process was my making the decision that I didn’t
want to do this project by myself. As a traditional white man, I had had lots
of practice working and living in isolation from other people. Although I had
been a member of two families (one by birth and one by choice) and many
organizations and teams, I still thought of myself as an individual rather than
a member of communities. I didn’t think I needed support. I thought I could
‘‘go it alone.’’ I came to realize that that path was lonely and led to less
e√ective outcomes. And so I asked for, and found, another white man to join
me in this project. Estelle Disch, a professor at the University of Massa-
chusetts at Boston, introduced me to Emmett Schaefer. In 1998, we began to
meet weekly in a co√ee shop to explore if we wanted to work together.
Then, in 1999, on a trip to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia to interview
several white men, Emmett and I asked an old friend of mine, Harry Brod, to
join us. We are now three.
Although I continued to do most of the interviewing and development of
the narratives and coordinated all the pieces leading to the completion of a
manuscript, the three of us shared equally in all major decisions about con-
tent and style. Most important, we lifted each other’s spirits when we were
overwhelmed by the project or something else going on in our lives. I am so
grateful to the support that Harry and Emmett gave me; without them, I
doubt that this project would have been finished.
The second step in this process was the persistent voice of Gerald Jackson.
Gerald is an African American friend and colleague of mine in visions, Inc.,
an organization that provides training and consultation on multiculturalism.
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