So, Beinart concludes: civil rights at home and anti-jihadism abroad. We’ll see how the idea plays out in the 2006 debates,...

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THE GOOD FIGHT

WHY LIBERALS--AND ONLY LIBERALS--CAN WIN THE WAR ON TERROR AND MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN

New Republic editor-at-large Beinart delivers a cri de guerre that seems tailor-made for—well, maybe Hillary Clinton, if not the DNC.

American liberals have erred in thinking that because American power is vulnerable to being used immorally, American power should not be used at all. Beinart wistfully admits to having supported the invasion of Iraq, hoping that it might “produce a decent, pluralistic Iraqi regime,” but allows that he was mistaken. Still, he adds, the classic liberalism of the Cold War period posed what Arthur Schlesinger called “the vital center” between the poles of communism and fascism, and it made no bones about being activist and interventionist and using force where needed. It also placed great faith in international development, in the belief that relieving the world of poverty and want was a positive instrument for building peace and making friends, a very far cry from Bush and company’s avowed lack of interest in nation-building. Just so, Beinart writes, John F. Kennedy—who was only sort of a liberal, at least at first—proclaimed that the core of America’s Middle East policy ought to be “not the export of arms or the show of armed might but the export of ideas, of techniques, and the rebirth of our traditional sympathy for and understanding of the desires of men to be free.” Civil rights at home and anti-totalitarianism abroad: The formula barely survived Kennedy, for the New Left of the 1960s dismantled Cold War liberalism and disconnected its ideals from “the struggle for freedom around the world,” a mantra the right cynically took over. Modern liberals, the author adds, have tended not to have much to say about national security. But, he insists, they can take the high ground—and even the White House—by mastering the topic.

So, Beinart concludes: civil rights at home and anti-jihadism abroad. We’ll see how the idea plays out in the 2006 debates, but his prescription will surely find takers.

Pub Date: May 30, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-084161-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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