A scholar refocuses the issue from “not racist” to “antiracist” and from white to black.
“Prevailing cultural and academic understandings of antiracism typically focus on white Americans,” writes Zamalin (Political Science and African-American Studies/Univ. of Detroit Mercy; African American Political Thought and American Culture: The Nation’s Struggle for Racial Justice, 2015, etc.), “at the expense of those who have offered the most sustained critique of what racism is and how to dismantle it: black Americans.” Though patience may not be a virtue for those who have struggled too long for too little recompense, this book has more of the measured tone of an introduction to the notion of antiracism rather than the polemical urgency of a manifesto. The author provides valuable historical context on the social construct of racial identity, the structural construct of institutional racism, the global reach of the antiracist mission, and the struggles that have persisted from the Declaration of Independence through the abolitionist movement and the Civil War, through the issues of employment and education, and through the back-to-back elections of presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Regarding Obama, writes Zamalin, “an important antiracist opportunity was…lost throughout his presidency. The participatory democratic energy that got him into office was never sustained.” The Obama years saw the initial stirrings of the Black Lives Matter movement—the author gives him credit for not repudiating it or distancing himself—alongside the polarization that led to the Trump backlash. Zamalin’s vision is pragmatic with a touch of idealism. He doesn’t necessarily place moral superiority on nonviolence over more militant tactics, and he recognizes that black rebellion intensifies resistance from a conservative status quo. As he insists throughout, it is not enough to believe that you are not racist; you must actively work against racism in all its institutional and insidious forms.
A useful summary account of “a rigorous political philosophy and mode of direct political engagement that provides an exemplary model for tackling racism in all forms.”