An alarming and important indictment of Obama’s ineffectual approach to one of his signature campaign issues and of...

OBAMA'S GUANTÁNAMO

STORIES FROM AN ENDURING PRISON

As Barack Obama’s presidency comes to a close, lawyers who defend inmates at Guantánamo assess his broken promise to close the prison and the legacy he will leave.

Though the public knows it as a prison for the world’s most hardened terrorists, Guantánamo is and has been home to a great number of people who never had any connection to terrorism. Of the 779 men who have suffered incarceration at the base, fewer than 10 have ever been convicted of anything, and all but one of those convictions occurred in ad hoc military tribunals with arbitrary and unclear rules and standards of evidence. Dozens of the remaining prisoners were cleared for release years ago, remaining only because Yemen, their home country, is considered too dangerous to repatriate them. In this collection, edited by Hafetz (Seton Hall Law School; Habeas Corpus After 9/11, 2011, etc.), members and advocates of the Guantánamo defense bar contribute their personal reflections, many quite moving, on their cases. Sabin Willett asks, “were we always a timorous people, who ran from our Constitution at the first sign of trouble?” Several contributors invoke Kafka, as their clients inhabit an alternate universe where those found not guilty are subjected to double and triple jeopardy, hearsay is considered allowable evidence, and attorney-client communications are intercepted by the National Security Agency. Shayana Kadidal tells the story of his client, a clearly mentally ill man who was apparently imprisoned solely because he told interrogators he had once taken a taxi to Bara, a small suburb of Peshawar that they promptly confused with Tora Bora. Martha Raynor sums up the situation of anyone who finds himself in this netherworld, saying of her client, “when he will be released, who will decide it, and under what criteria is utterly unknown.”

An alarming and important indictment of Obama’s ineffectual approach to one of his signature campaign issues and of America’s tarnished system of justice as a whole.

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4798-5280-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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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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