A mediocre take on an aspect of politics that deserves more critical attention.

MOBOCRACY

HOW THE MEDIA’S OBSESSION WITH POLLING TWISTS THE NEWS, ALTERS ELECTIONS AND UNDERMINES DEMOCRACY

A right-wing pundit rails against the use of polls in journalism today.

If the media are obsessed with polling, Robinson is obsessed with their obsession. This ham-fisted study only reinforces what everyone knows about polls and statistics: Anyone can make them say anything. For Robinson, polling shows how the media suffer from an incorrigible liberal slant that can be exorcised only by the cool application of (his) common sense. He informs us that—surprise, surprise!—the question a pollster asks foreordains the answer he or she will be given. In this way, he concludes, liberals saved the presidency of Bill Clinton. The questions the public was asked revealed that most of them thought the president had done wrong in re Lewinsky and that impeachment was a good thing, but that they didn’t want him thrown out of office. Although Robinson can’t seem to keep these contradictory ideas in mind simultaneously, he does manage a convincing attack on one aspect of polling: Most people, when they answer poll questions, don’t even know the personalities concerned or the substance of the questions posed. In this sense, slanted questions are dangerous, as they tip ignorant citizens toward cooked-up responses politicians then use to back up their policy initiatives. Bill Clinton wasn’t a president driven by polls but a president whose polls drove the nation. Robinson’s rants about George Washington and the first president’s views on public education, intended to instruct the reader how to clear the stains polls have left on democracy, come off as amateur revisionist history. His attack on the limp wrists of journalists, however, strikes a chord. Instead of granting the media’s risible claim that polls are objective, he asks, why not encourage a more openly partisan press to express its biases more articulately?

A mediocre take on an aspect of politics that deserves more critical attention.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7615-3582-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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