A powerful and thoughtful call for “a revolution of value and a radical democratic awakening” aimed at ending America’s...

DEMOCRACY IN BLACK

HOW RACE STILL ENSLAVES THE AMERICAN SOUL

Glaude (Chair, African American Studies/Princeton Univ.; African American Religion: A Very Short Introduction, 2014, etc.) explores the worsening state of racial inequality under the nation’s first black president.

In an illuminating analysis of the crisis in black communities in the wake of the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, and others, the author argues that African-Americans have suffered “tremendously” during the presidency of Barack Obama, whose “snake oil” promises of hope and change must be viewed against the devastating effects of a “Great Black Depression.” Hardest hit by the 2008 recession, writes Glaude, African-Americans lost more than 50 percent of their wealth by 2011. They lost homes, savings, and jobs, with national black unemployment reaching 16 percent in 2010. Illustrating the effects through the stories of black families in cities around the country, the author describes the increasing poverty of black communities that have become “opportunity deserts,” where hardship and joblessness create “isolated places for disposable people.” Most white Americans remain “willfully ignorant” of such places because of a “value gap” (the belief that white people are more valued than others) and “racial habits” (unthinking behaviors that sustain the value gap). White people must examine their assumptions—that black people are dangerous—and change the country’s policies and structured racism. “White fear blinds us to the humanity of the people right in front of us,” writes Glaude, who finds plenty of blame to go around—from Obama’s disappointing lack of action in support of blacks to the failures of traditional black liberal leadership. What is required, claims the author in this forceful book, is a new grass-roots movement based on the capacities of ordinary black people and built on the successes of “black lives matter” protests.

A powerful and thoughtful call for “a revolution of value and a radical democratic awakening” aimed at ending America’s persistent racial crisis.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3741-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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