Despite the somewhat glib and frivolous title, a serious discourse on black male-female relations.

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WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

UNDERSTANDING AND HEALING THE RIFT BETWEEN BLACK MEN AND WOMEN

An exploration of the tense terrain of relations between black men and women.

Sociologist Franklin (Ensuring Inequality, not reviewed) holds that much of the tension between black men and black women is the fruit of weak family life, which is itself the perpetuation of social patterns established during the era of slavery. A divorce rate double that of the rest of the US population, a dramatically accelerated intermarriage rate among blacks and whites, a steeply rising rate of domestic violence, and widespread adultery among black husbands are the most obvious social catastrophes afflicting relations between black men and women. All of which, individually or collectively, has led many black women to become reluctant feminists. Franklin traces the historical roles of black men and women in the post-Emancipation period, providing some provocative analysis of the role black women played in the suffrage movement (and of their less-than-stellar leadership role in the Civil Rights Movement) along the way. She offers an intriguing exposition of how the concept of black beauty was developed and how it helped to divide black men from black women; she also discusses how the Civil Rights Movement brought black men closer to white women, in such a way as to drive a wedge between black women and black men. Inevitably, perhaps, the author flogs the Tyson rape case, the Simpson murder trial, and the Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas Affair once more, without adding much that hasn’t already been said. But she often breaks new ground, perhaps even at the expense of her personal reputation: her analysis of why black men are attracted to white women and vice versa is not likely to win her any support among either group. Similarly, black women may be inclined to mock rather than cheer her for her overall efforts—if for no other reason than the fact that, as Franklin herself states, race in the black community always “trumps” gender.

Despite the somewhat glib and frivolous title, a serious discourse on black male-female relations.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-81851-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2000

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

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