A highly disquieting but important investigation of one of the most influential subcultures in American higher education.



A chilling exposé of American fraternity life.

At colleges and universities across the country, fraternities espouse high ideals of brotherhood, honor, pride, service, loyalty, and collegiality. They claim to build men, and they inspire profound loyalty among their alumni and fierce protectionism among their undergraduate cohorts. As Bloomberg News senior editor Hechinger, a two-time winner of the George Polk Award, demonstrates in this riveting, infuriating book, these organizations often fall well short of those high ideals. Focusing on Sigma Alpha Epsilon, one of the most prestigious, popular, and controversial fraternities in America, the author reveals a culture fraught with myriad ills. Many will be unsurprising to those who have attended college, but others are shocking. These include dangerous abuse of alcohol and drugs; dehumanizing hazing rituals; sexual assault, rape, general harassment, and other horrifying treatment of women; rampant elitism; and both obvious and covert racism. The author shows how these problems come with access to politicians and lawyers and other moneyed and influential men. SAE embodies all of these damning flaws. It has experienced the most deaths of all such bodies among its undergraduate members in recent years, and its members have been involved in assault and rape to the point where many female students, when asked about the fraternity, immediately respond with a common play on its Greek letters: “Sexual Assault Expected.” In 2015, the University of Oklahoma chapter was caught on video singing an ugly racist song. Hechinger documents all of this and more in an exposé that, given the influence of fraternity alumni, requires tremendous courage to pursue. In the final chapters, the author offers possible ways forward for SAE and fraternities more generally that might alleviate the ongoing crisis, almost all of which would require a deep commitment to a drastic reduction of alcohol consumption, the elimination of hazing, and other steps that national SAE leaders have begun to tackle.

A highly disquieting but important investigation of one of the most influential subcultures in American higher education.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61039-682-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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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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