An authoritative account of the challenges facing progressives wishing to fuse better governance with economic justice.

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THE FIGHT AGAINST A JOBLESS ECONOMY AND A CITIZENLESS DEMOCRACY

An energetic if grim discussion of inequality and the coming era of underemployment, viewed through the lens of the forgotten American progressive narrative.

McChesney (Communications/Univ. of Illinois; Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy, 2013, etc.) and Nation Washington, D.C., correspondent Nichols bring clear urgency to this sprawling polemic, which encompasses politics, the cybereconomy, the decline of critical journalism, and historical movements beginning with America’s founding. They describe the post-2008 recession era as a “maelstrom” of inequity, pointing toward worse times in the labor market: “the debate about where technological change is headed is already settled in the circles of those who intend to profit from that change.” This pessimism is linked to what the authors convincingly portray as the decay of representative governance. Both parties, they argue, have pursued tax and trade policies that have stealthily undermined blue-collar jobs and middle-class stability. “This is the means,” they write, “by which unelected bankers and billionaires most effectively and steadily define the popular discourse.” Such dire chapters contrast with a vividly rendered history of the development of a now-tattered “democratic infrastructure,” beginning with the state constitutional conventions of the late 18th century, more populist than what ultimately became the U.S. Constitution. The authors follow this thread through the Progressive Era and Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, portrayed as the precursor to an ambitious “Second Bill of Rights,” forgotten at the dawn of the Cold War. Similarly, a fascinating chapter documents a forgotten progressive coalition poised to achieve great gains during the 1970s, only to be thwarted by the recession and a cunning pro-business lobby: “There was a tenfold increase in corporate federal lobbying by the 1980s.” McChesney and Nichols conclude with a lengthy proposition for how the ranks of the underemployed could similarly regroup to protect workers’ interests. “Economic planning needs to be democratized and popularized and made accountable,” they write.

An authoritative account of the challenges facing progressives wishing to fuse better governance with economic justice.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1568585215

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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