A useful book for those aiming to combat latter-day bigotry, with its many targets and manifestations.




Firsthand reports on hate crime and its victims in the age of Trump.

Why does the sitting president not use his bully pulpit to denounce anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, xenophobia, and so forth? Because, insists civil rights lawyer and commentator Sethi (Georgetown Univ. Law Center), “he is a racist and a sexist, and his ideologies are white supremacy and greed.” Even if you don’t share that sentiment, it’s hard to dismiss Sethi’s belief that hate crime—motivated by the wish to do harm to people who are somehow different from the mainstream—is markedly on the rise. However, that belief often lacks hard evidence to back it. Although the FBI collects data on the incidence of hate crime, “their figures are grossly incomplete,” in part because reporting from local police agencies is voluntary and one person’s hate crime may be another’s exercise of First Amendment rights. Consequently, violations go underreported or unreported, which this collection of testimonials aims to redress by validating the reality of those crimes and the great harm they do. Student government activist Taylor Dumpson, for instance, writes of the racist threats and subsequent trauma that resulted from her having been elected student president as an African-American at American University. “We need to lean into discomfort,” she writes, “because nothing happens when we’re comfortable.” A Christian Lebanese-American in Tulsa recounts a series of violent assaults on the part of a neighbor who assumed her family was Muslim and who received the equivalent of a slap on the hand for his misdeeds: “They sent him back home, next door to the family he terrorized.” Many of the speakers in these pages locate hate crime in a pattern of fear at the loss of white privilege, about which Sethi sensibly notes, “these Americans have to…understand that the projects of justice and equity are not assaults on their racial identity.”

A useful book for those aiming to combat latter-day bigotry, with its many targets and manifestations.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62097-371-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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