PAVED WITH GOOD INTENTIONS

THE FAILURE OF RACE RELATIONS IN CONTEMPORARY AMERICA

A stinging, but ultimately one-dimensional, polemic that calls for dismantling race-conscious government, educational, and business policies that, in this conservative's view, worsen the white-black relations they sought to better. Americans have engaged in a vast conspiracy of silence about black-white relations, Taylor (Shadows of the Rising Sun, 1983—not reviewed) suggests. Blacks, he believes, have been done a grave disservice by liberal apologists who meekly accept the idea that whites are responsible for blacks' problems. At its most powerful, Taylor's presentation is filled with example after example of the paternalism, condescension, and hypocrisy fostered by affirmative action in education and employment and by black double-standards in spouting antiwhite rhetoric while decrying white racism (e.g., the Bill Clinton-Sister Souljah flap). But while admitting that ``no one could argue that America is free of racism,'' Taylor never discusses cases of racism, perhaps in keeping with his apparent feeling that blacks should be denied any excuse for misbehavior. On the other hand, in blasting the media for inflaming tensions with its coverage of the Howard Beach, Bensonhurst, and Rodney King incidents, the author dwells on circumstances that seem to extenuate white misconduct. He indulges in increasingly bizarre extrapolations of his thesis (e.g., objecting to the idea that businesses that market products and services to blacks perpetuate race consciousness) or in rhetoric befitting campaign clichÇs (``the sturdy virtues of the men and women who founded this country and make it great''). Finally, Taylor supports mandatory use of Norplant contraceptives by welfare mothers—an Orwellian experiment in sexual control in highly ironic contrast to his often eloquent denunciation of American's doublespeak on race. In the end, Taylor resembles a physician who uses the most sophisticated equipment to diagnose a patient's condition—and then prescribes bloodletting as the cure.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-88184-866-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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