A deft, angry analysis for angry times.

HOW TO BE LESS STUPID ABOUT RACE

ON RACISM, WHITE SUPREMACY, AND THE RACIAL DIVIDE

A scholar navigates between the academic and the vernacular in delivering some hard lessons on racism and white supremacy.

Fleming (Resurrecting Slavery: Racial Legacies and White Supremacy in France, 2017) promises to make her readers uncomfortable, particularly her white ones, and she succeeds. Yet the “stupid” in the title isn’t simply an insult. People are stupid about race, as she herself was, because they haven’t been properly educated. They know nothing of the interdisciplinary Critical Race Theory and think that “white supremacy” references should be limited to guys in hoods and other extremists. Fleming offers a crash course in what will be a radically new perspective for most and a provocative challenge that should inspire those who disagree with her to at least consider their basic preconceptions. “There are a certain number of prerequisites for the course that you will find in these pages,” she writes. “These include critical thinking, reflexivity, compassion, and a willingness to experience discomfort.” She proceeds to distinguish between personal prejudice and the more insidious and pervasive “systemic racism (a system of power).” It is by no means limited to America, but it has flourished along with white supremacy as “capitalist inventions.” As the author examines the history of a country in which white settlers appropriated the land of Natives from a different race and then harvested it through the labor of imported slaves of a different race, she builds a strong case that the existence of systemic racism is undeniable and is perpetuated by a white power structure, a white education system, and a white-controlled media for the benefit of a white elite. Rather than finding any sort of post-racial hope in Barack Obama, for whom Fleming once served as a campaign spokesperson, she now dismisses him as “the king of neoliberal tokenism…it’s almost as if he's competing for the title of the Most Sold-Out Sell-Out of all time or the Unclest of Uncle Toms.”

A deft, angry analysis for angry times.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-5077-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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