More Jon Stewart’s America than Alistair Cooke’s, but with a fierce and often funny point. Just the thing for the midterm...

READ REVIEW

SAVING GENERAL WASHINGTON

THE RIGHT-WING ASSAULT ON AMERICA’S FOUNDING PRINCIPLES

“Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder.”

Thus spoke Thomas Paine, a Founding Uncle if not a Founding Father, whose words are scarcely ever evoked these days. By The Al Franken Show staffer Norton’s judicious account, that’s because Paine is just too darned revolutionary; certainly nothing he said gives aid and comfort to the neocons who have taken the name of the founders in vain in order to justify their imperialist adventures around the globe. Thus, when Dick Cheney wanted to plead for legitimacy in invading Iraq, he summoned up the cozy image of spreading democracy; when he wanted to legitimate the constitution there, he likened the process to the long one of making our own, concluding, “So this is a tough, difficult thing we’re trying to do.” Maybe so, says Norton, but the analogy is wholly false: it just sounds good to quote or mention the founders “when you’re defending a disastrous war,” just as it’s an expedient thing to liken, say, contras and mujahedeen to our own revolutionaries. (Never the insurgents, though: they’re Saddamists and terrorists, not patriots.) Norton is wry and sometimes a tad smartass, but his points are well taken. As John Dean remarked, and as Norton documents in case after case, “the Bush administration has made the Nixon administration look as clean and open as a Quaker picnic.” It’s thus a great irony, Norton argues, that the Bushies so intently strip away civil liberties even as they profess to be legitimate heirs to the likes of Adams, Washington and Jefferson. In the matter of nepotism alone, Norton deftly shows, they don’t even approach operating in the same moral universe.

More Jon Stewart’s America than Alistair Cooke’s, but with a fierce and often funny point. Just the thing for the midterm elections.

Pub Date: May 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-58542-486-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: TarcherPerigee

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more