Provocative and well-argued with plenty of clues on what to watch for in the coming presidential race.

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FRACTURE

BARACK OBAMA, THE CLINTONS, AND THE RACIAL DIVIDE

An exploration of the relationship between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, proving to be salutary reading for anyone who still believes that we live in a post-racial society.

Recent events in South Carolina, Missouri, Florida, and elsewhere would suggest that we’re going backward when it comes to matters of race and ethnicity. Against this backdrop, the Republican mainstream in particular has made hay of white resentment over supposed favoritism, in the form of affirmative action and other measures, meant to “add economic stability to the...basic rights for African Americans (and poor whites),” as MSNBC correspondent Reid observes. Against this divided politics, it’s small wonder that “Democrats are the only ball game” for African-Americans, the product of a generational shift that began with Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights programs of the 1960s, which he recognized would drive Southern voters into the arms of a welcoming GOP. Before Johnson, writes the author, only Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal had done much to “lift large swaths of African Americans out of despair,” further disposing African-American voters to the Democratic cause. All that said, as Reid shows, Obama, a beneficiary of both Democratic-backed civil rights measures and of African-American votes, has seemingly been strangely reluctant to engage in discussions of race. A case in point, writes the author, is the upswelling of GOP efforts to strengthen voter ID requirements, “just one weapon Republican state legislatures and governors could use against minority voters.” Obama offered only modest assurances that if voters wished to vote, they would find ways to prevail. Reid’s book slightly precedes a shift in Obama’s tone following the Charleston shootings, so some of her conclusions may require modest updating, but her point remains important: the racial divide persists, and Clinton, the presumptive Democratic candidate in 2016, will have to court African-American voters while delicately maintaining some distance from Obama in the eyes of white voters.

Provocative and well-argued with plenty of clues on what to watch for in the coming presidential race.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-230525-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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