A valuable complement to Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge (2006) and Diane McWhorter’s Carry Me Home (2001).

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THERE GOES MY EVERYTHING

WHITE SOUTHERNERS IN THE AGE OF CIVIL RIGHTS, 1945-1975

A well-conceived study of the changes in thought and being that swept the white South as its privileged position came under challenge in the Civil Rights era.

There is no single white southern culture, and in this debut book, historian Sokol notes that the simpleminded designation of white southerners simply as racist obscures the fact that their “racial attitudes and behavior frequently revealed a confused and conflicted people, at times divided within and against themselves.” They had much to be confused about, for many whites prided themselves on knowing what black people thought and, what is more, knowing what was best for them. They found out otherwise. The advent of WWII, racially mixed military units and integrated combat situations in which soldiers of whatever ethnic group were afraid and brave in equal measure, all helped alter the temper of the South; in particular, educated southerners began to publicly endorse the notion that vanquishing fascism abroad should be extended to vanquishing Jim Crow at home. Even so, change “was a partial and messy process” in which entrenched southerners such as Georgia restaurateur and politician Lester Maddox fought integration every step of the way, even as others accepted—some very reluctantly—the reality that the old way of life was gone forever. Sokol examines several agents of change, one of them old-fashioned peer pressure: In the case of Memphis restaurants, for instance, black protestors and the federal government faced less contempt than did “proprietors who stubbornly clung to white supremacy while others integrated.” White southerners, in other words, pushed white southerners along. But they have not yet arrived: drawing on wide-ranging interviews, Sokol shows that the process of integration and accommodation is ongoing, yet still “agonizingly slow . . . in deference to the rhythms and preferences of whites’ lives.”

A valuable complement to Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge (2006) and Diane McWhorter’s Carry Me Home (2001).

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2006

ISBN: 0-307-26356-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

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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