Callahan is onto something, notably the insight that patriotism and libertarianism may be incompatible. However, he too...

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THE MORAL CENTER

HOW WE CAN RECLAIM OUR COUNTRY FROM DIE-HARD EXTREMISTS, ROGUE CORPORATIONS, HOLLYWOOD HACKS, AND PRETEND PATRIOTS

Political activist Callahan (The Cheating Culture, 2004, etc.) urges progressives to recast their agenda in moral terms, the better to attract a theologically traditionalist electorate.

Attacking capitalism through ethics rather than economics is not a particularly new tactic, though the author gives it some extra bite here by frequently referring to businesses as criminal enterprises: tax traitors that reincorporate offshore while laying off their workers at home and price-gouging their customers. The proposal to move beyond Right and Left is also familiar, and Callahan is not likely to win it new adherents with his suggestion of using the terms “Cares” and “Care-Nots” to describe the true divide in America. He does break new ground, however, by attributing the electoral successes of the Right to an accurate perception by the general public of real moral crises. The Left is foolish to dismiss this perception, he contends, because it can be reformulated in ways that advance progressive goals. Thus, revulsion over the spread of pornography could easily underpin popular demand for re-regulating the media. (Callahan argues that progressives must break their link with Hollywood and its well-funded lobbying for free markets.) Opposition to abortion could be channeled into demands that schools provide comprehensive sex education and birth control on the European model. Indeed, if people could be persuaded that the market undermines marriage, that could be the wedge for a whole new class of workplace entitlements. Toward these ends, some key themes of religious conservatives could be co-opted. The emphasis on personal responsibility that did so much in the 1990s to undermine America’s allegedly successful welfare system could be transformed into a demand for greater personal economic security. Furthermore, he argues, all this could be done without giving in to religious traditionalists on matters of principle, such as keeping Roe v. Wade inviolable and allowing no greater role for religion in public life.

Callahan is onto something, notably the insight that patriotism and libertarianism may be incompatible. However, he too obviously tries to market Old Left wine in new evangelical bottles to be persuasive.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2006

ISBN: 0-15-101151-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2006

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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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