Identity is bunk. What’s in your wallet?




A radical critique of the nation’s penchant for highlighting diversity and ignoring financial inequality.

Michaels (English/Univ. of Illinois, Chicago; The Shape of the Signifier, 2004) says Americans would rather talk about racial, ethnic and gender differences than focus on the only difference that matters—some people are rich (and getting richer) and the rest are not. For years, as the gap between the rich and the poor has widened, “we’ve been urged to respect people’s identities—as if the problem of poverty would be solved if we just appreciated the poor,” he writes. In fact, the poor are not interested in diversity; they want to stop being poor, he says, noting there will never be a National Museum of Lower-Income Americans on the DC Mall. Drawing examples from current events, novels and popular culture, Michaels describes a national near-fetish with cultural diversity that manifests itself in everything from university enrollments to corporate hiring. Used to organizing the world racially, Americans keep doing it, finding it easier to fight racism rather than admit to class differences. The author excoriates both left and right, arguing that diversity satisfies both sides in the culture wars, permitting them to believe that “the fundamental problems of American society have nothing to do with capitalism.” His challenge to the nation’s dominant thinking can be unsettling, and he will provoke many with assertions minimizing the impact of discrimination in American life: He says, for example, that black intellectuals are simply nostalgic for the black culture that Jim Crow helped create, and that anti-Semitism has never been as significant as Negrophobia. By basking constantly in identity, Americans are able to avoid seeing and acting on class inequalities. Thus, says the author, some critics mistakenly chose to see President Bush as anti-black—not anti-poor—in his handling of Hurricane Katrina, when in fact not many rich black people were left behind in New Orleans.

Identity is bunk. What’s in your wallet?

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-8050-7841-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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