Few books are written about workers and by workers. Timothy Sheard’s Lenny Moss mystery series is a welcome change. This series, written by a retired emergency room nurse based his detective, Lenny Moss, on a real life janitor and union steward in a Philadelphia hospital. These books contain all the elements of a good mystery: suspense, developed characters, believable plots. Each mystery takes place within a larger medical framework. Lenny realizes early on in the series that when major crimes arise, he has to notify the police. He and Detective Williams learn to trust and respect each other’s skills.
I recently read A Tale of Two America’s, a book on social class in the United States. Expecting a familiar data driven account of class based inequalities, I was surprised to discover 36 stories of real life experiences with class, stigma, and racism. Collated by John Freeman, the stories convey the subtle and overt challenges people face as workers and students from all walks of life. They give voice to people many of us don’t know, and capture characters and situations sharply and poignantly.
Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl
by Karyn Pomerantz, August 2019
Dying of Whiteness examines how racism hurts white working class people. Metzl counters the common ideology of white privilege, which posits that white people benefit from racism in terms of social status, safety, education, and housing. While racism devastates non-white communities, it also hurts ordinary white people. Metzl’s analysis doesn’t explicitly frame these inequities as different levels of exploitation caused by capitalism, but he demonstrates how racism enriches the rich, prompts people to support policies against their best interests, and divides people to keep the working class weak (see other blog pieces on white privilege).
This autobiography of a revolutionary farmworker offers insights into the lives of the workers who plant and harvest our food under brutal working and living conditions. It highlights the need for militancy, revolutionary ideas, and total opposition to capitalism. Told in accessible language with clear explanations of complex political ideas and organizing strategies, it has much to teach us.
Camacho describes his childhood in Mexico, his work in the southern US and California, his leadership in establishing the United Farm Workers of America with Caesar Chavez, and his development as a communist. Along the way, he reveals the treachery of Chavez, the Church, liberal politicians, and the government.
In Bring the War Home, University of Chicago History Professor Kathleen Belew presents a picture of the broad and coordinated nature of the white power movement, which ultimately aims to destroy the U.S. Government and establish an all-white state. She provides convincing evidence that many supposedly “lone wolf” attacks are actually part of this grand conspiracy, most notably the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Builing in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people and for which Timothy McVeigh was executed. She documents that federal agencies have long been aware of the mass character of the white power movement, and yet law enforcement and justice agencies have not responded in proportion to the threat, and the media has almost completely ignored its cohesive character. Although the author sees violent white power at home as a consequence of a violent foreign policy, what she does not consider is whether the growth of such a mass racist movement is useful to those in power. Nor does she contrast the undersized response to it with the aggressive targeting of foreign-inspired terrorism or left-leaning opponents of racism. She also does not discuss the extent and success of anti-racist opposition to white power activities.
Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram Kendi is indeed, as it claims to be, a very complete history of the origin and practice of anti-black racism in the United States. The story begins with the development of racist ideas of African inferiority as the rationale for the capture and brutalization of Africans for enslavement by the Portugese in the 1400s. The author then traces the history of the importation of these racist ideas to the Americas to justify slavery and the continuation of discrimination to this day. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: STAMPED FROM THE BEGINNING”