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ONE MAN, A STREET FELLOWSHIP, AND THE END OF VIOLENCE IN INNER-CITY AMERICA

An unlikely criminal-justice pioneer revisits his innovative, immensely successful crusade against youth homicide in America's worst neighborhoods.

Kennedy (Criminal Justice/John Jay Coll.) didn't set out to dedicate his career to crime, much less the seemingly insurmountable problem of gang-and-drug related violence plaguing America's cities and stumping even the most seasoned law-enforcement units. Rather, as an aspiring writer straight out of college, he took a job constructing teaching cases for Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. An early assignment on problem-oriented policing sent him to Los Angeles' beleaguered Watts neighborhood, one of many hit hard by the 1980s crack epidemic. Kennedy was struck by the devastating violence he witnessed and, as he plunged further into researching the problem, the horrifying trends it represented. Quickly, a few things became clear. First, guns, drugs and gangs held the keys to the downward spiral. Second, in a shockingly optimistic and humane perspective, that the real problem was, in essence, a massive misunderstanding; that is, that cops and communities wanted, at the base level, the same things, and could be brought together to work toward them. Kennedy and a few key colleagues launched what became known as the Boston Miracle (a name not sanctioned by Kennedy, who emphasized that hard work, rather than divine intervention, created the results). With a massive communication effort, including an astonishing set of forum meetings which actually brought gang members and police officers together, Kennedy's team made clear to the community their goal of stopping violence and valuing the young lives that had previously gone unnoticed. Results were swift and unprecedented—youth homicide rates halved, then quartered, and broad changes were made to communities. More importantly, the solution was not specific to Boston. Over the years, Kennedy has cloned his experiment in cities across the country, from smaller communities like Stockton, Calif., to, with significantly more effort and issues, meccas of urban blight like Baltimore. The problem has in no way been eliminated—and Kennedy emphasizes the drastic consequences when the programs falter—but progress is undeniable. A valuable text—not just for the solution, but also for the refreshing philosophy behind it.

 

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60819-264-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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