Robinson is a sharp storyteller, jarring and fascinating as he goes, which makes his message of personal responsibility, of...

THE RECKONING

WHAT BLACKS OWE EACH OTHER

The story of a man who is making a significant difference to young African-Americans, told within the framework of a general condemnation of African-American circumstances in today's America, from activist Robinson (The Debt, 2000, etc.).

What can be done for today’s young black men—a truly endangered generation—in America today? Two years back, Robinson suggested that America ought to make some financial reparations to African-Americans for the legacy of dysfunctional families, poor education and health acre, poverty, and prospects not worth a dime, the modern day pain and hopelessness engendered by old policies as well as the institutionalization of racism, that have been that have been the African-American life for the past few hundred years. But reparations, even if understood an act of national survival, will not have an impact on the people in jeopardy now, says Robinson. That will be the task of African-Americans themselves, and they better get started. Certainly the nurturing experience starts with children at home, where the elemental demands on personal responsibility are first posed. But there is a lot of wreckage out there and a lot of salvaging to be done. As an example, Robinson unfurls the life story of Peewee Kirkland, a man who now runs a center delivering love and caring for African-American youths, and a decent shot of political, social, and cultural awareness. The tumultuous life he led prior to his current work gives him a credibility demonstrated by his effect upon New Child Lynch, another man destined to wreak havoc on his society rather than be a valuable contribution to its betterment. Robinson takes particular care to explain the workings of the correctional system that housed Kirkland for seven years and was likely to take in Lynch as well, as a “catch-and-cage rural-development juggernaut,” a grotesque pork-barrel scheme that profits vastly by the incarceration of African-Americans.

Robinson is a sharp storyteller, jarring and fascinating as he goes, which makes his message of personal responsibility, of the kind of sacrifice and vision that have always been in short supply, a welcome obligation.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2002

ISBN: 0-525-94625-X

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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