For readers inclined toward democratic socialism, this is a valuable source of support.

FREEDOM FROM THE MARKET

AMERICA’S FIGHT TO LIBERATE ITSELF FROM THE GRIP OF THE INVISIBLE HAND

An economic manifesto on behalf of the 99% poorly served by the present economy.

As economist and journalist Konczal rightly notes, the idea, courtesy of Milton Friedman, that financial markets are self-regulating and that business should take care of business has meant undue hardship for most consumers. Countered by a movement of people, especially younger ones, who are “hungry to reclaim a world outside the market,” the Friedman-esque mantra is increasingly giving way to a different view: Government is understood not to be a bystander in the economy but instead the provider of key services that are now seen as profit centers, including health insurance and education. Market dependency contributes to unfreedom while placing limits and regulations on capitalism enhances freedom. It’s a thoughtful rebuke to “glib libertarian fantasies,” though of course libertarians will decry Konczal’s prescriptions as socialistic. Early on, the author urges that private enterprises be removed from the health care market, whose resources are captured and kept out of the reach of those who most need health care. Conversely, as he observes, under the present economic regime, the “public” has been removed from public utilities, public lands, and public enterprises in favor of an ever smaller elite. This scenario flies in the face of a history that has included such transformative moments as the passage of the Homestead Act, which transferred 10% of public lands to smallholder ownership, and the social insurance program that provided pensions to Civil War veterans and, by 1910, “delivered benefits to more than 25 percent of all American men over sixty-five, accounting for a quarter of the federal government’s expenditures.” Demands for economic reform have been manifested in such things as the eight-hour workday, proving that regulatory limits can work and offering hope for those “people fighting to take back their lives from the market.”

For readers inclined toward democratic socialism, this is a valuable source of support.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

UNCOMFORTABLE CONVERSATIONS WITH A BLACK MAN

A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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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