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Available now in paperback!


A four-letter word. The greatest social divide in American life, a half-century ago and today.

During that time, the U.S. has seen the most dramatic demographic and cultural shifts in its history, what can be called the colorization of America. But the same nation that elected its first Black president on a wave of hope—another four-letter word—is still plunged into endless culture wars.

How do Americans see race now? How has that changed—and not changed—over the half-century? After eras framed by words like “multicultural” and “post-racial,” do we see each other any more clearly?

From the dream of integration to the reality of colorization, Who We Be remixes comic strips and contemporary art, campus protests and corporate marketing campaigns, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Trayvon Martin into a powerful, unusual, and timely cultural history of the idea of racial progress.

In this follow-up to the classic Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, Jeff Chang brings fresh energy, style, and sweep to the essential American story.

One Do we see each other any more clearly?
“Channel 11.” Kori Newkirk. 1999. Encaustic on wood panel. Collection of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Gift of Barry Sloane, 2009.74.2
Two What would I do without you?
Copy of a strip originally done for Black World during the 1970s. Morrie Turner, early 2000s. Courtesy of the artist.
Three What is the nature of the complaint?
"Autobiography: Water/Ancestors/Middle Passage/Family Ghosts" by Howardena Pindell.1988. Acrylic, tempera, cattle markers, oil stick and polymer on paper. 118 x 71 in. Collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum. Gift of The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund.
Four Who do you empathize with?
Stanford University student protest for diversity on May 15, 1989. Photo by Chris Eisenberg. ©The Stanford Daily.
Five Are they so mired in guilt they will allow themselves to be destroyed?
“Museum Tags: Second Movement (Overture); or Overture con Claque (Overture with Hired Audience Members)” by Daniel Joseph Martinez, 1993. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts & Tilton Gallery.
Six Can’t color just be a means—and not an end?
"We're Black and Strong" by Glenn Ligon. 1996. Screenprint on Canvas. Courtesy of the Artist.
Seven What will the new mainstream look like?
The border at Nogales. Photo by B+ for Mochilla.com. 2011.
Eight Can we dream together?
"Decolonize Wall Street" by Ernesto Yerena, Ricardo Lopez, and Orlando Arenas. Screenprint. 2011.

The Author

Jeff Chang has written extensively on culture, politics, the arts, and music.

His first book, Can't Stop Won't Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, garnered many honors, including the American Book Award and the Asian American Literary Award. He edited the book, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop.

Who We Be: The Colorization of America (St. Martin's Press) was released on October 2014 to critical acclaim. It was published in paperback in January 2016 under the new title, Who We Be: A Cultural History of Race in Post-Civil Rights America (Picador).

His latest book, We Gon' Be Alright: Notes On Race and Resegregation (Picador), will be published in September 2016. His next project is a biography of Bruce Lee (Little, Brown).

Jeff has been a USA Ford Fellow in Literature and a winner of the North Star News Prize. He was named by The Utne Reader as one of "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World,” by KQED as an Asian Pacific American Local Hero, and by the Yerba Buena Center for The Arts as one of its 2016 YBCA 100 list of those “shaping the future of American culture.” With H. Samy Alim, he was the 2014 winner of the St. Clair Drake Teaching Award at Stanford University.

Jeff co-founded CultureStr/ke and ColorLines. He has written for The Guardian, Slate, The Nation, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Believer, Foreign Policy, N+1, Mother Jones, Salon, and Buzzfeed, among many others.

Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawai’i, he is a graduate of ‘Iolani School, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

He serves as the Executive Director of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.

For more, visit JeffChang.net, Jeff's Facebook page or his Twitter feed.

A Selection of Press and Reviews

New York Times Editor’s Choice
Dayton Literary Peace Prize Finalist
NAACP Image Award Finalist
Books For A Better Life Award Finalist
Northern California Book Award Finalist
Ray & Pat Browne Award For Best Work In Popular Culture and American Culture

“Who We Be” is ambitious in its scope, an impressive gathering of a wide range of artists of color, with their creative interventions and politically charged war stories.”

New York Times Book Review

“Who We Be serves as an indispensable text to arm the current and next generation of artists…an intoxicating, revisionist reading of the near-recent past.”

National Post

“No one knows the intersection of race and culture like Jeff Chang.”

NPR’s Bullseye

“A new book by Jeff Chang is always a cause for celebration. His voice is unique, and his issues are our issues: this changing America, this complicated, polyglot future that some are already living in, while some are fighting to tear apart. Who We Be is an important, timely book, and it’s also a terrific read.”

Author of At Night We Walk in Circles

“This is the book we’ve been waiting for.”

Author of Long Division and
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America

“Who We Be reveals the unsettling backstory to our most closely guarded assumptions about race. As its title suggests, it wants to tell us something important about ourselves.”

Hyphen Magazine

“With Who We Be Jeff Chang has emerged as a premier chronicler of the broad and unruly narrative of American culture.”

Author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress

“The idea that art is an important part of society and of history certainly isn’t new, but the freshness of Chang’s work, his comprehensive scholarship, and his accessibility in this discussion are striking…Who We Be is at the height of its relevance and ability to answer one of the more important questions of all histories: How did we get here? ...(It’s) a book that demands to be read now."

AV Club

“Who We Be is essential reading – not this season or this year, but until the audacity of post-racism kicks in. Which won’t be happening anytime soon.”

Number One New York Times bestselling author of Rage is Back and Go the Fck to Sleep*

"Perhaps Jeff Chang is Hip-Hop America's Howard Zinn."


"I know of no better account of the glories and sorrows of contemporary American diversity, nor any so attuned to the outsized role that art has played in that journey.”

Author of Open City and Every Day Is For The Thief

“Following in the footsteps of cultural historians like Ronald Takaki, Mike Davis, and Howard Zinn, Jeff Chang is a meticulous scholar adept at tackling interdisciplinary subjects and weaving it all together in an organized and cohesive narrative…he is initiating one of the most critical conversations of the American future and the 21st Century.”


“As America transitions towards becoming a majority non white society in 2043, Jeff Chang’s beautiful magnum opus is a must read in order to understand the role of race in who we are and where we’re going.”

The Guardian

“Provocative but steady — Chang is too good a writer and thinker to resort to bomb-throwing — Who We Be asks the kind of questions too often swept under the rug: What does racial identity mean? How do you assert it in the stew of the melting pot? What have the culture wars cost us? And where are we now?"

Dallas Morning News

”Who We Be” could not possibly be any more timely or relevant...Chang's writerly flow makes it a pleasure to read."


“Chang’s exhaustive and beautifully written book traces the trajectory of American multiculturalism, from its beginning as a simple descriptor for America’s increasing cultural diversity, to the complex nexus of academic programs, artistic expressions, ideas and philosophies it grew to encompass.”


“Who We Be is the work of a new sage thinker with his finger on the pulse…One of the best Black books for 2014.”

The Skanner

“Absolutely nothing I’ve read, seen, or heard this year is as worth your increasingly valuable time and attention. We owe it to ourselves to shut up long enough to read it.”

Passion of the Weiss

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