Long on description, shorter on prescription; still, a provocative, instructive contribution to the literature of public...

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DYING OF WHITENESS

HOW THE POLITICS OF RACIAL RESENTMENT IS KILLING AMERICA'S HEARTLAND

Nationalism, meet mortality: A social scientist and psychiatrist examines the interplay of racial identity and health.

Metzl (Center for Medicine, Health, and Society/Vanderbilt Univ.; The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease, 2010, etc.) identifies several public health trends related to white identity politics and the left-behind sentiments of its adherents. One epidemiological chain goes like this: Whites without opportunity in the hinterlands drop out of high school at ever higher rates. According to studies by the author and others, “failure to attain a high school diploma correlated with nine years of life lost, in conjunction with rising rates of smoking, illnesses such as diabetes, and missed doctor visits.” Want to guarantee a disaffected white rural populace? Slash the education budget, as former Kansas governor and Trump appointee Sam Brownback did. Similarly, Metzl lucidly examines rising rates of suicide by gun, noting that from 2009 to 2015, “non-Hispanic white men accounted for nearly 80 percent of all gun suicides in the United States, despite representing less than 35 percent of the total population.” Although gun suicide is a clear threat to the public health, “whiteness” includes adherence to views that privilege the Second Amendment at the expense of any public good. In other words, although everyone knows there’s a problem, the problem is variously attributed to nonwhite criminality or mental illness, not the easy availability of guns and lack of background screening. Furthermore, writes the author, the numbers point to the fact that “non-Hispanic white, male, self-identified conservative Republicans over the age of thirty-five overwhelmingly owned and carried the most guns in the country.” Opposition to the Affordable Care Act has hinged on the notion that the undeserving (read: nonwhites) are free riders on a system that the government has no business being involved in. And so forth. While Metzl notes that white identity politics has enjoyed great successes, he concludes that they come at significant cost and “heighten the calculus of risk.”

Long on description, shorter on prescription; still, a provocative, instructive contribution to the literature of public health as well as of contemporary politics.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5416-4498-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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