Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland


  • Lynn Delaney, Senior Adviser and the Executive Director of RFK Legacy, Awards, and Special Projects at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights (moderator)

  • Annette Gordon-Reed, Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School; Professor of History, Harvard University

  • Dr. Jonathan Metzl, Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry and Director for the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University

Jonathan Metzl received the 2020 RFK Book Award for Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland. 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.

The Robert F. Kennedy Book Award was founded in 1980 with the proceeds from Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s best-selling biography, Robert Kennedy and His Times. The award recognizes books that, as Schlesinger said, “most faithfully and forcefully reflects Robert Kennedy’s purposes – his concern for the poor and the powerless, his struggle for honest and even-handed justice, his conviction that a decent society must assure all young people a fair chance, and his faith that a free democracy can act to remedy disparities of power and opportunity.” If there is a book that you feel is deserving of this award, feel free to share it with us! You can view past winners of the award here.