Strictly for activists, political consultants, pollsters and organizers looking to sharpen their appeals.

AMERICAN INSECURITY

WHY OUR ECONOMIC FEARS LEAD TO POLITICAL INACTION

In his first book, a young scholar examines the barriers to political action on a wide range of economic issues that intimately affect millions of Americans.

Single-issue political advocacy has a venerable tradition in America, with citizens voluntarily coming together to move the needle on issues as diverse as gun rights, the environment and abortion. Notwithstanding polls that consistently underscore the importance of issues relating to their financial well-being, people are less willing to mobilize, to spend their time and money affecting public opinion on economic problems such as involuntary job loss or the costs of health care, retirement and higher education. Why? Relying largely on his own experiments and research—elaborate appendices help explain his methodology—Levine (Government/Cornell Univ.) ascribes their reluctance to language, to what he rather awkwardly terms “self-undermining rhetoric.” Put another way, when it comes to an appeal on economic security issues, merely raising the topic reminds people of their own financial vulnerability. This makes them, even those willing to stir themselves on behalf of noneconomic, quality-of-life issues, less eager to engage in collective action when the issues center on their own pocketbooks. It’s the reason, for example, casino employees are cautioned never to make small talk about the state of the economy with their patrons and why a person most affected by rising health care costs might refrain from donating to a group dedicated to reducing them: “I am affected by these rising costs and need the cash.” Nor does Levine hold out much hope for overcoming this rhetorical barrier. Even heroic attempts to reframe the issue cannot avoid the mention of “cost” when it is the very nub of the matter. Unfortunately, Levine’s discussion of this rather small and, some would say, unremarkable point bears all the marks of a warmed-over doctoral dissertation: too elaborate a windup followed by a disappointing delivery, too many needless repetitions and too much clumsy prose.

Strictly for activists, political consultants, pollsters and organizers looking to sharpen their appeals.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0691162966

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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