Powerful, potent reading.

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UNAPOLOGETIC

A BLACK, QUEER, AND FEMINIST MANDATE FOR RADICAL MOVEMENTS

A black lesbian activist offers insight into forging a radical black liberation movement through the lens of her experience as a community organizer in Chicago.

Frederick Douglass once wrote that “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Carruthers, who is best known as the founding national director of the Black Youth Project 100, revises her predecessor’s observation to highlight that it is “organized demand” that wins revolutionary struggles. Drawing on her experience as a reader, thinker, and grass-roots activist, the author illuminates the past, present, and future of black radicalism. She opens by first addressing recent “calls to end identity politics.” Carruthers argues that what is needed instead is to “end liberalism.” The intersectionalist approaches of black queer feminists are what will give (white) democratic progressives the tools to combat the intertwined ills of patriarchy and capitalism. A crucial part of the movement also involves reviving—or reimagining—the black radical tradition. Only by remembering the collective past can activists resist social erasure and see a clear way forward. In the fight to end liberalism, writes the author, focusing on such issues as “leadership development [and] healing justice” is also key. Moreover, activists must be self-reflective at all times and ask themselves and each other questions about who they are, where they came from, what they want and want to build, and whether they are “ready to win.” The author concludes with a discussion of the “Chicago Model” of community organizing and a mandate to continue the struggle. Though imperfect, the Chicago Model still managed to bring together “multiple institutions with varying political alignment” to fight police brutality and oust racist and corrupt political officials. Timely and important, Carruthers’ book is a strong testament to the resilience of the radical black liberation movement as well as an impassioned appeal to continue the fight for social justice in a political environment characterized by increasing hostility to equality and difference.

Powerful, potent reading.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1941-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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