Plummer’s call is inspiring because of—rather than despite—its willingness to call out difficulties and eschew naiveté.



In an era of increased self-segregation and polarization, an informative and passionate call for cross-racial friendship.

Psychologist Plummer (Racing Across the Lines: Changing Race Relations Through Friendship, 2004, etc.), the chief diversity officer at UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care, believes that cross-racial friendships—a term the author prefers to “interracial,” because “it speaks to the conscious action that has to be taken in these kinds of relationships”—are key to “bridging our widening racial divide.” However, such friendships are not straightforward or simple. Stereotypes can interfere with the intentions of well-meaning people to make friends with those from different backgrounds, and people tend to self-segregate because “people simply enjoy doing things with folks racially and culturally similar to them.” Institutions where we forge friendships often remain de facto racially segregated (Plummer includes an astute analysis of churches). When people do forge cross-racial friendships, they often report that those friendships feel—in some inarguable but hard to articulate way—different from friendships with same-race people. The tools people rely on to sustain same-race friendships don’t always translate well to cross-racial friendships. For example, though humor usually helps cement friendships, race-based humor can be offensive. Plummer’s source base is rich and persuasive. She draws on multiple national surveys, anecdotes, and historical examples of cross-racial friendships, like that of Eleanor Roosevelt and May McLeod Bethune. Vignettes from the author’s life—including a sadly quotidian story about a restaurant hostess who couldn’t imagine that she and her husband might be meeting white friends for dinner—leaven the sometimes-awkward academic prose. Plummer focuses more centrally on the subtitular challenges of friendship than on its benefits. Yet her own life testifies to the rewards of cross-racial friendship: It is from friends that people learn “how to truly hold multiple perspectives.”

Plummer’s call is inspiring because of—rather than despite—its willingness to call out difficulties and eschew naiveté.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8070-2389-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.


Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?