Read and weep—especially because there are few vacancies for a moderate administration to fill, so that for the foreseeable...



A measured denunciation of what the author deems an ongoing conservative effort to pack the American judiciary with hard-right judges.

Schwartz (Law/American Univ.; ed., The Rehnquist Court, 2002) is plainly displeased by a system that makes William Rehnquist appear to be a judicial moderate, but he is seldom moved to outrage. Instead, he patiently constructs historical and judicial trends, showing that the advances in progressive legislation and interpretation thereof in the New Deal era have been steadily turned back in subsequent years. Schwartz outlines three great transformations in American society in the 20th century, the first two of which came from the New Deal and its liberal successors to institute “a change in the relationship between the federal government and the American people, which established a major role for the government in American economic life.” Much of the conservative backlash has been posed in economic terms: Why, Rehnquist himself once asked, should the government have any right to dictate to whom a business owner can serve a meal? (“It is about time the Court faced the fact,” a young Rehnquist would write, “that the white people in the South don’t like the colored people.”) Whereas Rehnquist often sat alone in upholding, say, school segregation and the rights of employers over employees, he has been joined by countless like-minded peers, thanks to the efforts of Bush administrations I and II to pack the courts: by the time he left office in 1992, Bush I had seen to it that “Republican judges comprised 80 percent of all federal judges and 75 percent of the appellate bench,” leaving little for Bush II to do save to plumb the depths of reaction by nominating to the federal circuit one judge whose consistency in voting to the right surprised even Sen. Orrin Hatch, and another who told Congress that clean air and water regulations were unconstitutional.

Read and weep—especially because there are few vacancies for a moderate administration to fill, so that for the foreseeable future, “the judiciary will be permanently titled toward the extreme right.”

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-56025-566-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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 clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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