A scholarly reconsideration of racism.
Given that racism is such a persistent and ubiquitous issue in the U.S., any treatment of it could be considered timely, but this book is especially so since it compels the reader to fundamentally rethink the terms of the contentious debate. In her first book, Poulton, a career academic and teacher with a background studying diversity, argues that the accusation of racism is too easily dispensed. In fact, what most might consider racism is really an instance of racial bias or an unexamined prejudice thoughtlessly applied. So what is racism then? Poulton, who is black, defines it as a trinity of prejudice, power, and intent. In layman’s terms, racism is the intentional denigration of another race as inferior by a person in a position of some authority. According to the author, the conflation of racism with racial bias has stymied a more candid dialogue about race relations in the U.S, reducing opportunities for constructive discussion to a flurry of ad hominem attacks. And racial bias infects everyone to some degree; we all have our own unexamined presumptions. The author helpfully explains the often muddled concept of race itself and argues that a proper understanding of it requites it be placed in the context of class and gender as well. Overall, it’s a commendably sober contribution to a typically hotblooded issue. Combining rigorous empirical research with anecdotal observation, Poulton generally avoids needlessly hypertechnical language. The book also has a practical component: she provides readers with concrete methods for detecting and appraising one’s bias, essentially a blueprint for searching self-reflection. She applies her definition of racism to a myriad of popular topics. Were Paula Deen’s comments racist? How about Tyler, the Creator’s infamous Mountain Dew commercials? Her ultimate goal is to improve and moderate the quality of racial dialogue. “Bottom line: if someone disagrees with you or asks you to reconsider your beliefs, it should not be taken as a personal attack. We need to get to a place where our identities are not threatened whenever our ideologies are called into question.” This important book shows readers what such a lively but civil dialogue could look like.
An analysis of racism that not only explains it, but could contribute to its diminishment.