An original and impressive presentation that does much to illuminate the current racial situation.

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RACE EXPERTS

HOW RACIAL ETIQUETTE, SENSITIVITY TRAINING, AND NEW AGE THERAPY HIJACKED THE CIVIL RIGHTS REVOLUTION

Lasch-Quinn (History/Syracuse Univ.) contends that the civil-rights movement has been hurt by its advocacy of diversity training, multicultural education, and other therapeutic programs that have failed to tackle the intractable problems of poverty and violence.

The author maintains that the movement, as represented by Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, appealed to the better angels of the American psyche. That movement, however, while once based “on a powerful set of moral and political premises,” has failed to achieve its goal of a “democratic nation able to transcended racial and other cleavages; a revived civic culture; and a truly humane social order.” The later generation of racial theorists, who assumed control of the movement in the years following King’s assassination, came out of an academic culture and were preoccupied with questions of individual growth, emotional health, and personal gratification (rather than political change based on law and morality). They confused rather than clarified discussion of race. Lasch-Quinn contends that the terms of the debate changed when the civil-rights coalition collapsed in the early 1970s, and she sees the development of the new approach as a response to powerful changes in both popular and academic culture. The vast expansion of psychotherapy in the late 20th century led to the adoption by activists of such therapy-based remedies as the Encounter movement and the T-Group (a racial identity theory that envisioned a separate “black psychology”). There was also the influence of New Age beliefs in “empowerment,” as well as the rise of “diversity training” (which has become a fixture in nearly 65 percent of US businesses) and “multicultural education” (with its emphasis on self-esteem). She concludes that the civil-rights movement has blundered by casting “racial oppression in terms of incorrect attitudes or estranged emotions,” thereby confusing the very points of contention and actually bringing on a resurgence of racism.

An original and impressive presentation that does much to illuminate the current racial situation.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-04873-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2001

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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