A persuasive call to rethink foreign policy and heal domestic fissures.

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POLITICAL TRIBES

GROUP INSTINCT AND THE FATE OF NATIONS

How tribalism causes problems at home and abroad.

In a biting critique of American foreign policy and analysis of the nation’s divisive culture wars, Chua (Law/Yale Univ.; Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, 2011, etc.) argues that tribal affiliation exerts a crucial, powerful force on individuals’ behaviors and identities. Humans’ need for “bonds and attachments,” she asserts, fulfills an instinct to belong but also to exclude. People “will sacrifice, and even kill and die, for their groups.” Reprising some ideas from her book World on Fire (2002) on the negative consequences of exporting free market democracy, Chua examines America’s failed involvement in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Venezuela as well as responses to terrorist groups. The author blames blindness to tribalism for the disastrous outcomes. That blindness comes, in part, from America’s unique success in assimilating diverse populations into its “ethnicity-transcending national identity.” Assessing other countries, Americans have failed to recognize tribal affiliations and rivalries or the existence of a repressive “market-dominant minority” that controls major sectors of the economy. Instead, the U.S. has fixated on its mission to foil communism and export democracy. Focused on the Cold War, “U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan never saw the potent anti-American, anti-Western group identity fueling the Islamic fundamentalist fighters.” In Iraq, foreign policy was shaped by a belief in “markets and democracy as a universal prescription for the many ills of underdevelopment.” In reality, the downfall of Saddam Hussein incited rivalries among tribal groups and the rise of ethnic conflict and fundamentalism. In Trump’s America, cohesion has splintered “into ever more specific subgroups created by overlapping racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation categories” that feel threatened by one another. Inclusivity, hailed by the left, has devolved into exclusivity as groups seek to exert “exclusive rights to their own histories, symbols, and traditions.” Nevertheless, Chua is heartened by individuals’ efforts to bridge divides and to undermine “purveyors of political tribalism” on the left and right.

A persuasive call to rethink foreign policy and heal domestic fissures.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-56285-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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