The book leans decidedly to the right, but Fund and von Spakovsky raise issues of partisan intrigue, dishonesty and...

OBAMA'S ENFORCER

ERIC HOLDER'S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Fund and von Spakovsky (Who's Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, 2012) team up again for a no-holds-barred assault on Attorney General Eric Holder.

Both authors are well-known shapers of conservative opinion, and von Spakovsky, of George W. Bush’s Justice Department, so the authors include certain ongoing issues promoted by the right. These include, among others, the 2009-2011 “Operation Fast and Furious” gunwalking scandal, during which the Justice Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were investigated for distributing weapons in Mexico subsequently used with deadly effect against American border enforcement agents. As a result, Holder became the first attorney general in history to be held in contempt of Congress, but Democrats voted overwhelmingly in support of Holder. What Fund and von Spakovsky have put together in this account seems to merit thoughtful consideration rather than peremptory dismissal as yet another partisan assault. For example, they ask why Holder's accounts of when he learned about the gunwalking scandal differed significantly in the versions he presented before the House and the Senate—and the differences have not been reconciled. The authors point to numerous Supreme Court decisions that question the legality and honesty of actions undertaken by Holder's department, and they discuss a number of criminal and civil prosecutions that have been dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct, including lying and withholding exculpatory evidence. Fund and von Spakovsky also question his practice of unilaterally changing interpretations of laws—e.g., the 1961 Interstate Wire Act. The authors detail the chilling effects of censorship and raise some intriguing issues about the conduct of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

The book leans decidedly to the right, but Fund and von Spakovsky raise issues of partisan intrigue, dishonesty and criminality, with sufficient evidence to merit serious investigation and not just partisan dismissal.

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232092-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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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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