A stark reminder not just of the actions of a group of idealistic activists but of the violence and turmoil of the nation’s...

THE GOOD DOCTORS

THE MEDICAL COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE STRUGGLE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE IN HEALTH CARE

Civil-rights historian Dittmer (History/DePauw Univ.; Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi, 1994) focuses on one of the lesser-known groups involved in the struggle.

The author acknowledges that his coverage of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in the Bancroft Prize–winning Local People was inadequate. Here he tells the full story of this activist health-care organization, linking its aims and accomplishments with larger struggles. The MCHR, founded by left-wing, white, mostly Jewish doctors and joined by African-Americans, had a dual mission—to provide medical care for civil-rights workers in Mississippi during Freedom Summer (1964) and to reform the South’s Jim Crow health-care system. Dittmer reveals the motivations of many of the organization’s leaders, and he paints a disturbing picture of the shameful treatment of both black doctors and patients in the South. In the early chapters he writes vividly of the challenges facing civil-rights workers and of the brutality—beatings, jailings, killings—inflicted on them. The narrative pace slows when the author shifts attention to the political controversies and internal ideological disputes that led to the group’s decline. Dittmer documents the disintegration of the MCHR following the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the rise of the black-militant movement. Northern white liberals began to question their role in the organization, and a rift was growing between those who saw it as the medical arm of the civil-rights movement and those who believed its mission should be to address the health-care needs of all poor people, regardless of race. By the late ’60s the MCHR had become a cash-strapped loose federation of largely independent local chapters. The author argues that it should be remembered for its role in desegregating Southern hospitals and medical societies, creating comprehensive community-health centers, shaping health-care legislation and providing a model for subsequent activist health organizations, such as Partners in Health.

A stark reminder not just of the actions of a group of idealistic activists but of the violence and turmoil of the nation’s not-so-distant past.

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59691-567-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2009

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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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