A flawed but insightful exposé of structural racism in corporate culture.

THRIVING WHILE BLACK

THE ACT OF SURVIVING AND THRIVING IN THE SAME SPACE

A Black entrepreneur explores corporate racism in this business book.

As a self-made Black businessman and licensed clinical social worker, Williams is deeply familiar with the racism embedded in American corporate culture. In this work,he reveals “the psychological and emotional consequences of being Black in corporate America.” Despite surveys that highlight the many White businessmen who do not see their Black co-workers as “deserving” of their jobs and who maintain stereotypes of African Americans “as lazy and unwilling to work,” Williams convincingly demonstrates “the reality…that Black people need to work harder than their white counterparts to achieve the bare minimum.” Even when succeeding at their jobs, Black workers continue to be ignored, particularly in decision-making circles. At just under 100 pages, this succinct book covers topics that range from ethnocentric ideas of “professional” hairstyles to imposter syndrome and tokenism to microaggressions from White colleagues who “do not see color.” Code-switching is a central topic of the author’s analysis, which argues that racist attitudes in the corporate sector view African American Vernacular English as “an inferior dialect.” In general, United States business culture, according to Williams, seeks “to erase” Blackness by encouraging African American employees to conform to White cultural norms as a prerequisite to climb the corporate ladder. This prioritization of White values implicitly strips “the average Black person of their individuality and humanity.” The volume’s final chapters examine the psychological costs of “Corporate Traumatic Stress Disorder” and call for true diversity in the business sector that celebrates differences rather than encourages a monolithic corporate culture whose default is White comfort. As U.S. corporations have increasingly included social justice messages in their advertising campaigns, Williams’ book is an important reminder of the entrenched systems within corporate America that work against Black employees even when the business publicly states a commitment to “diversity.” But while the volume provides a myriad of anecdotal and statistical evidence to bolster its claims, it lacks adequate citations. In addition, the work’s opening chapter on African American history is perfunctory and distracts from an otherwise important message on corporate racism.

A flawed but insightful exposé of structural racism in corporate culture.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-578-23685-8

Page Count: 114

Publisher: CKC Publishing House LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2020

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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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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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