AFRICAN EXODUS

THE ORIGINS OF MODERN HUMANITY

As surely as night follows day, one could expect a retort to the multiregional evolution of Homo sapiens as expounded by Milford Wolpoff et al. (in Race and Human Evolution, 1996). In the latter thesis the various races of humankind had migrated from Africa by two million years ago, evolved from Homo erectus, absorbed Neanderthal genes, and enjoyed enough matings at continental borders to commingle genes so that a single species of Homo sapiens emerged. Not so, say Stringer (director of the Human Origins Group, Natural History Museum, London) and McKie (science editor the Observer of London). Our ancestors left Africa barely 100,000 years ago, the offspring of a few ``Eves,'' to make their way in the rest of the world, outwitting or replacing whoever else was around—such as the Neanderthals. Who's right? Both sides claim fossil evidence, but Stringer adds a weight of DNA evidence that points to the very close match of mitochondrial DNA among non-African races, suggesting a recent separation, compared with more variation in African groups (mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother, hence the out-of-Africa thesis is often called the Eve theory). At this stage, the Stringer thesis has more going for it—in multiple lines of evidence as well as in plausibility (it seems more likely that our species got rid of Neanderthals rather than embraced them). But to keep the pot boiling, the authors also trot out theory after theory on the origins of language, art, religion, sexual behavior, etc., including what could be called the Lysistrata approach: Someone has proposed that at some pivotal time women smeared themselves with blood or else timed their periods so as to make themselves collectively unavailable for sex, forcing men to sublimate the urge by getting food for supper—going hunting, that is. In sum, the authors provide a good answer to multiregionalism but kindle even more fires to spark future debates on who, what, and why we are. (55 illustrations)

Pub Date: July 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8050-2759-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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