A timely and impassioned argument for social justice.

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A COLONY IN A NATION

Profound contrasts in policing and incarceration reveal disparate Americas.

MSNBC host and editor at large of the Nation, Hayes (Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, 2013, etc.) expands the investigation of inequality begun in his previous book by focusing on law and order. Offering a persuasive analysis, he distinguishes between the Nation, inhabited by the “affluent, white, elite,” and the Colony, largely urban, poor, “overwhelmingly black and brown” but increasingly including working-class whites. The criminal justice system, argues Hayes, is vastly different for each: “One (the Nation) is the kind of policing regime you expect in a democracy; the other (the Colony) is the kind you expect in an occupied land.” In the Colony, “real democratic accountability is lacking and police behave like occupying soldiers in restive and dangerous territory.” Law enforcement, as noted by law professor Seth Stoughton, takes a “warrior worldview” in which “officers are locked in intermittent and unpredictable combat with unknown but highly lethal enemies.” Acknowledging that America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, Hayes traces the country’s history of punishment to the experience of European settlers who, “outnumbered and afraid,” responded with violence. Between 1993 and 2014, although the crime rate declined significantly, most Americans feel that crime has increased and therefore support aggressive police action. Furthermore, although most crime occurs intraracially, the Nation believes that the Colony is a constant, insidious threat; unmistakably, “we have moved the object of our concern from crime to criminals, from acts to essences.” Among other rich democracies, ours is the only one with the death penalty. Whereas in Europe, humane treatment has been widely instituted, in the U.S., perpetrators are treated as unredeemable. “The American justice system is all about wrath and punishment,” the author asserts. Arguing for the erasure of borders between Nation and Colony, Hayes admits, regretfully, that such change might fundamentally alter the comfortable sense of order that he, and other members of the Nation, prizes.

A timely and impassioned argument for social justice.

Pub Date: March 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-393-25422-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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