An important book that forthrightly confronts and questions conventional wisdom.

LOSING THE RACE

SELF-SABOTAGE IN BLACK AMERICA

An impassioned but meticulously argued plea for African Americans to address the three basic problems—identified by the author as separatism, anti-intellectualism, and “a cult of victimology”—largely responsible for “keeping black Americans eternally America’s case apart.”

In elegant, jargon-free prose, McWhorter (Linguistics/Univ. of California, Berkeley), while never minimizing the experience and the legacy of slavery, argues that much has changed to African-Americans’ advantage since the 1960s. In 1960, 55 percent of blacks lived in poverty, now only 25 percent do; there were 4 blacks in Congress, now there are 41; only 2.8 percent were doctors, by 1990 there were twice as many. But McWhorter contends that African-Americans still subscribe to what he calls “the seven Articles of Faith,” which fuel their sense of victimization despite impressive evidence to the contrary. They believe that most blacks are poor and three out of four live in the ghetto when in fact by 1995 only one in five did; that blacks get paid less than whites for the same job; that there is an epidemic of racist arson against black churches; that the US government funneled crack into South Central Los Angeles; that racism is responsible for the high rates of black male incarceration; and that police brutality reflects an unchanging racism. With an impressive range of statistics and facts, McWhorter proves that not only are these tenets no longer relevant, their continued prevalence is deeply harmful. He also offers persuasive analysis and proof that all African-Americans, regardless of class, are seriously affected by separatism and anti-intellectualism; he believes that the latter is mostly responsible for their children’s continued poor academic showing. And he touches that third rail of black orthodoxy, affirmative action, which he contends should be retained in business, but not in education.

An important book that forthrightly confronts and questions conventional wisdom.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-83669-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

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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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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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