O’Connor sets forth a careful, well-constructed argument. Whether it changes minds one way or the other remains to be seen,...

THE FRAMING OF MUMIA ABU-JAMAL

The title says it all: Longtime investigative reporter and Crime Magazine editor and publisher O’Connor argues that the best-known death-row inmate of our time was set up.

An advocacy journalist well regarded in Philadelphia and beyond for his interviewing skills, perhaps destined for fame as a news anchor or writer, Mumia Abu-Jamal “had never been known for violence.” Indeed, writes O’Connor, he had been a peace activist while a student at ultraliberal Goddard College and was seemingly on the path to becoming a Rastafarian ascetic when he was charged with the December 9, 1981 murder of police officer Daniel Faulkner. Abu-Jamal admittedly carried a gun; a part-time cab driver since being fired from a public radio station for his unscripted political commentary, Mumia had twice been robbed and was concerned for his safety. Connected by several threads to the “back-to-nature group MOVE,” which had drawn the ire and bullets of Philadelphia police during the Frank Rizzo years, Abu-Jamal was framed, perhaps to keep him from looking too deeply into police counterintelligence operations. The police investigation was incomplete, confused and much-revised, and the forensics were improbable: Detained, Abu-Jamal was supposed to have been on the ground below Faulkner, but the first bullet to strike hit the officer in the back. Moreover, writes O’Connor, “It would not come out until trial that the police had not bothered to run any tests of Abu-Jamal’s hands or clothing to determine if he had fired a gun or even if [his] .38 had been fired.” Such tests being commonplace at shooting scenes, O’Connor advances the view that the results did not fit the setup and were discarded. Compounding all this, O’Connor then enumerates, was flawed physical evidence, a biased judge, perjured testimony and a district attorney known as the “ ‘Queen of Death’ because of her zeal for seeking the death penalty,” particularly for black capital offenders.

O’Connor sets forth a careful, well-constructed argument. Whether it changes minds one way or the other remains to be seen, but, he urges, it is time for a new trial.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-55652-744-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Lawrence Hill Books/Chicago Review

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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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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